As the summer months wane on a lush peach orchard in Alcarràs, director Carla Simón follows three generations of the family who sometimes despondently and sometimes in hope stare at a future where they may no longer continue with traditional farming. Through a slow-paced narrative spanning months and zooming in on a patchwork of emotions, Simón delivers a kaleidoscopic film that is awash in warmth of summer transitioning into monsoon.
In her film Alcarràs, whichisnamed after the town it is set in and won the Golden Bear at the 2022 Berlinale, Simón rotates through the feelings of the extended members of the Solé family who are about to lose their peach orchard. Realising that the original contract was only a spoken one, the Solés have no documentation to prove ownership and are being pressured to give up the land to make way for the installation of solar panels. Simón first conveys this shock of impending change through the youngest Solés, which includes the six-year-old Iris (Ainet Jounou) whose junk car, which she uses in her elaborate pretence of a heist movie, is towed away. It does not take long then for the whole family to be enmeshed in the narrative of potential loss.
While the grandfather Rogelio (Josep Abad) moves around the orchard in a sense of quiet sadness, his son Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet) works overtime to harvest the peaches, almost in denial that this may be the final one. Quimet’s son Roger (Albert Bosch) meanwhile straddles his higher education while also helping his father at the farm. Roger’s youngest sister Iris remains oblivious to the gravity of the situation and makes forts out of peach crates.
While the narrative approach may not be experimental, Simón’s film gathers its strength from the way it snakes around the varying points of view and reactions. The loss of the orchard carries weight because it spells uncertainty for a family who has been doing this for their whole lives. By spreading that weight around evenly across the Solés — across those who work on the farm and across their children who chase rabbits, across the older generation who wants to cling to the farm and across their heirs who want to modernize it, and across the grandparents who both reach out to nostalgia.
In allowing each character to occupy meaningful space in her script, Simón alleviates a rather simple tale to a cohesive one that contains layers. Each member of the family either directly experiences or observes someone express the anxiety of this being the final peach harvest. A constant thrum of an unknown future form the baseline of the narrative structure though this is interjected by welcoming segments of lightness between siblings, cousins, and grandparents.
In Alcarràs, we also witness the confidence that Simón has in her craft. She weaves around non-professional actors, the visual language of a close-knit family, each of whose members is undergoing a change. Packing the summer months of Alcarràs in a two-hour-long film, Carla Simón invites the audience into a moment of doubt for a family that has reaped the fruits of tradition. By giving it a patient treatment, she renders a film that makes for a calm, yet moving watch.
Alcarràs is now available for streaming on MUBI