Film Review – Land and Shade
Land and Shade
Land and Shade brings a quiet dignity to life of a Columbian family dealing with extraordinary and ordinary life. Alfonso (Haimer Leal), an old man walking with a quiet dignity and purpose down a dirty road surrounded by sugar cane, is going to stay and help out at his old house where his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandson are after hearing about an incident. Meeting the family we learn that Alfonso’s five year old grandson Manuel (José Felipe Cárdenas) has never met him before and that really is the only information I feel comfortable giving out without spoiling the experience.
The reason for this is that little actually happens in terms of big reveals, it is more of a slow observation of time passing and by nature of that time going by we are able to pick up hints of what happened several years ago and what the ramifications were and how it is still resonating with this family. We mainly have scenes like Alfonso sitting with his son Geraldo (Edison Raigosa) or playing with Manuel, and several scenes of Alfonso’s wife Alicia (Hilda Ruiz) and his daughter-in-law Esperanza (Marleyda Soto) working in the fields and occasionally hearing people complain about not getting paid.
Scenes are almost never quick little moments but slow building on what is happening quit shot with a bit of distance so we see the long space of the yard or the fields that are worked. We are like a voyeur watching over these people and we are not there for just the exciting bits, but to see a building up of who they are and how they are dealing with the way the world is changing around them, be that watching a loved one suffer to seeing that the way of the land has been altered beyond repair and that options are now limited. This is not just a plunge into darkness but more a showing of life in its imperfections and the quiet moments like a grandfather teaching his grandson to call to birds, or a married couple having a conversation with an unsatisfying conclusion. There is a sense of truth to it that maybe everything does not have a great defining moment and that this is how things just happen to be.
While this pacing does work for a lot of the film the ending started to drag a bit, especially when a central motive of a character is revealed and we have passed a major moment and are still with these characters. It feels like we wasted some time where we were finally not gaining anything new and the film was spinning its wheels. Luckily this is a minor moment in a very well put together film. Director César Augusto Acevedo does a great job letting his characters live, even in small inconsequential moments, to give us just enough to think about who these people are and what their lives are without boring us with repetition or beating us down with obvious discussion rather giving us something to chew on even if what it is may not be that important in the larger scheme of things.
This is a meditative piece that, while it didn’t keep me enthralled, did keep me questioning. The scenes that could have become monotonous stay interesting because of the talent of the cast and director in being able to give us just enough time with each of them and letting their personalities speak for themselves about what these people’s lives are and what is driving them and, more importantly, defining them. Nothing is clearly good or evil, nothing is easy but everything has its place. This is a quiet slice of life done very right.