Two young lovers embark on a relationship while a rumor of sharks at the beach has everyone talking.
Rosina (Romina Betancur) is running along a weathered, paved path. Occasionally she turns to glance behind her. The shot is held for some time as we take in the sound of her breathing, the surroundings, and try to decipher what is happening. We soon hear a voice in the distance. Her father Joaquin (Fabián Arenillas) is trailing her as she darts through trees and onto the beach, into the water. She turns and we get our first good look at Rosina as she wades further out to sea. She is a scrappy 14-year-old Uruguayan who is clearly in major trouble with her dad after getting in a fight with her younger sister. There is fear in her face. She may have crossed the line this time. We now know what Rosina fears. It isn’t the sharks that are rumored to be swarming the beach, it is her father’s wraith.
“We now know what Rosina fears. It isn’t the sharks…swarming the beach, it is her father’s wraith.”
The Sharks is a thoughtful, sometimes poignant story of a 14-year-old girl growing into the role of womanhood. Fiercely independent, she shows little emotion as she sticks to her own moral compass in life. Sharing a household with two younger siblings and her parents, Rosina is punished for the aforementioned fight by helping her grandmother pack and assisting her father in his gardening service. As Rosina gets to know her father’s other workers she begins to take a liking to one of her father’s employees. A young man by the name of Joselo (Federico Morosini).
Quietly, Rosina begins to form a secret relationship with Joselo. Things start innocently enough as the two run into one another on the beach after the townspeople come across a carcass after an apparent shark attack. While Joselo is the typical guy, catching nary a single subtle nod or social cue, Rosina is fascinated by him. Stealing his iPod to hear the music he likes, going through his wallet, making prank calls, she courts him in her own strange way. Then the trouble begins. And Joselo’s true colors are discovered.
The Sharks is a remarkably tranquil drama that somehow keeps you engaged. The plot is simple really yet textured with nuance as we follow a confounding young woman navigating the perils of adolescence. Writer-director Lucía Garibaldi takes a number of risks in holding shots, testing our attention span, and daring us to look away, yet we can’t. We are curious. That curiosity is more than rewarded.
“…we are given moments that seem disparate, that all come together like tumblers in a lock.”
Aquistapache’s portrayal of Rosina is wonderful. Keeping her emotions close to the vest, aside from the opening scene, we question what is going on in her calculating mind. This is her film and she holds it together beautifully and with a solid performance.
As Rosina swims among the sharks, she finds her way. The entertaining part is how she gets there. Scene after scene we are given moments that seem disparate, that all come together like tumblers in a lock. Garibaldi’s The Sharks is a breezy drama lead by a strong performance, one that should be noticed.
The Sharks (2019) Written and directed by Lucía Garibaldi. Starring Antonella Aquistapache, Fabián Arenillas, Romina Bentancur, Valeria Lois, Federico Morosini. The Sharks screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
7 out of 10 stars