Alba, dir. Ana Cristina Barragán│ With her debut feature, Ecuadorian director Ana Cristina Barragán paints the daily life and struggles of the type of character that often gets forgotten in real life. The titular Alba is not only extremely shy but also isolated, living as she does with a sick and bed-ridden mother. When she suddenly has to move in with a father she barely knows and who doesn’t have much to show for himself, however, she will find in him a kindred spirit, yet one whose own problems will make it difficult to connect with.
Barragán understands that loneliness and timidity translate into an inner-looking attitude that, if approached with delicacy, can be cinematic and reveal a lot about a character. Alba barely speaks, but her big eyes and her hesitance to occupy any space, especially at school, show a deep well of discomforting but touching sadness. The camera makes sure to capture the slightest facial expressions, in close-ups that give humanity to her as well as to her silent and distant father.
This reliance on the minutiae of life, however, fails to lead to more complex feelings and soon becomes tiresome. Meanwhile, even though school is where Alba’s difficulties to communicate are the most evident, Barragán simplifies her exploration of her character by falling back on clichés of the coming-of-age movie: Alba’s classmates play mildly sexual games, the other girls talk about their holidays and boys…
A much-needed dose of complexity appears when one schoolgirl befriends Alba, suggesting that there may still be hope for the little girl to have a semi-normal childhood and social life. In a climactic scene of dance and partying, all of Alba’s issues collude with each other, and while her shame and anger are palpable and moving, this narrative strategy remains unconvincing and mildly frustrating. By the rather meagre ending, Barragán’s film feels more indecisive than ethereal, scattered rather than sweeping. ■
│In cooperation with│
Alba│ Director: Ana Cristina Barragán│ Screenplay: Ana Cristina Barragán│ Camera: Simon Brauer│ Editing: José María Avilés, Ana Cristina Barragán│ Music: -│ Cast: Macarena Arias, Pablo Aguirre, Amaia Merino│ Producer: Isabella Parra, Ramiro Ruiz, Konstantina Stavrianou│ Production Company: Caleidoscopio Cine / Leyenda TV /Graal Post Production House│Country: Ecuador / Mexico / Greece │ Year: 2016│ Running Time: 98 min.│ International Sales: Caleidoscopio Cine│ Festival: Bergamo Film Meeting 2017│