The world cinema pageant circuit won’t ever need for moody coming-of-age tales protecting sluggish summers and stressed needs: It takes both a tougher contact or a very delicate one to face out amid the sultry languor of the style. Uruguayan writer-director Lucia Garibaldi’s debut characteristic “The Sharks” in some way goals for each in its portrayal of a 14-year-old woman’s disturbing sexual awakening in a sleepy seaside city. At each flip, the movie suggests luridly violent risks in tranquil waters — each figuratively and, per its title, actually — while sketching Rosina, its introverted heroine, in gentle, fragile strokes. The result’s intermittently hanging earlier than settling into an excessively acquainted drift: The movie’s icy-humid atmospherics hassle the reminiscence for longer than its distant protagonist and stagnant storytelling, simply sufficient to pique curiosity in Garibaldi’s future work.
An aesthetic acquisition for indie distributor Breaking Glass Footage, “The Sharks” bows Stateside on VOD this week, following a prolonged pageant run that started final 12 months at Sundance, the place Garibaldi scooped a directing prize. She actually has fashion to slow-burn. Even in passages of narrative torpor, there’s a sunburned tactility to the camerawork by Germán Nocella Sedes; in body after body, each slice of late-afternoon gentle on a golden expanse of pores and skin feels rigorously and intimately positioned. Fabrizio Rossi and Miguel Recalde’s strident, jittery digital rating, in the meantime, cuts proper by means of the woozy ambient haze of this summertime snapshot, a reminder of fevered adolescent hormones swimming in opposition to the encircling calm. Garibaldi feels crisply in charge of her movie’s clashing formal parts all through.
It’s in her screenplay, nonetheless, that every one this texture and friction feels in shorter provide. Early flares of peril and daring are impassively noticed however not investigated; we float teasingly over Rosina’s complicated, inchoate psychosexual depths as if in a glass-bottomed boat. That’s not for any lack of cool, alert display screen presence on the a part of non-professional lead Romina Bentancur, who performs her with a spark of feral vitality beneath a masks of teenage disaffection. We first encounter her operating to the seaside, escaping from a household fracas; it emerges that she has scratched her older sister’s eye in a struggle. Diving into the ocean, she’s satisfied she spots a shark’s fin chopping the water’s floor. Her father (Fabian Arenillas) is skeptical, at the very least till the tide brings in bloody proof of a killer within the deep.
Lest this appear the setup for a really subdued arthouse spin on “Jaws,” the shark-panic subplot unfolds strictly as a sinister backdrop to a extra indirect examine of predatory intuition — awoken in Rosina herself following her first flush of carnal need. Taking a summer time job in her father’s home-maintenance firm, she’s instantly interested in Joselo (Federico Morosini), a gawky co-worker some years older than her. Their first sexual encounter is an embarrassing bust however one of many movie’s most affecting scenes, carried in close-up by Bentancur’s conflicted however effortfully composed expression. Joselo drops the dalliance, which might be finest for all involved. But Rosina, to borrow a loaded phrase, won’t be ignored, as an alternative resolving to regain his consideration by means of more and more unhinged stalking strategies.
This simultaneous framing of a susceptible teenage ingenue as each shark and bait is an intriguing one, rescued from exploitative territory by the movie’s calm, unblinking feminine gaze. However “The Sharks” shies from its most troubling traces of inquiry, in favor of trendy however studied ambiguity: Rosina’s aloofness to all, the viewers included, comes to look much less fascinating than unraveling precisely what’s inside her head. Circling round this unlocked protagonist, secondary crises of household and group are extra accessible if much less compelling, carrying the movie on a heat breeze into extra typical summer-in-a-small-town terrain. Garibaldi depicts these environment with seductive saltwater authenticity, nevertheless it’s onerous to not really feel that “The Sharks” is trying away from the dorsal fin risk of its heroine: At any level on this melancholic coming-of-ager, a darker, extra perverse one feels poised to assault.