Acquamara is an ambitious short film about a man who becomes disillusioned in his career and makes the decision to seek his fortunes in other ways that may not be entirely aligned with his conscience. The main character Cencio, is a fisherman aboard a small vessel that is ill equipped to handle the large loads or do the type of fishing that leads to financial gain in the small seaside town where it ports. In the opening scenes, we see the crew doing the labor of pulling in nets and sorting through fish; all of it looking like difficult physical labor for little returns. Cencio makes an attempt to try and engage his boss to use some of the more high tech and environmentally disruptive methods for bringing in fish, a suggestion which he quickly rebukes and sends Cencio on his way. Not to be so easily deterred, Cencio burns with anger and disappointment at this failure to persuade. As he travels around town to sell the fish, we see the further problem; that what he’s catching is not even what is in demand at the local restaurants. Furthermore, he’s going against a market which is not on his side, as we see one dealer who is interested in buying the fish presenting him with a low, piddling offer well below what he’s able to take. Things only get worse when Cencio gets home and faces his girlfriend who is exasperated with the endless financial struggling that has become a part of their life. He has been holding off all of this time to even propose to her until he’s able to do so with a solid future in mind. With all of this putting impossible pressure upon him, he decides to make some quick cash with an illegal business. Suddenly we see his life turn around. He can afford better clothes, he begins paying off loans, and he takes his girlfriend out to an extravagant dinner. While there, he proposes to her with an expensive ring. Despite all of this instant wish fulfillment, though, the people in his life understand that something is not quite right, and the revelation of how he actually acquired the cash promises to destroy everything. Cencio has been engaged in illegal dumping of toxic waste from local factories; a fact which is finally pressured out of his by his boss aboard the ship. The film is particularly well photographed, especially the scenes that show the boat in action at sea. There is a great feeling of moment and timing to the action that gives it a documentary quality. All of the cast are excellent as well, up to the task of a drama that relies on smaller moments between characters, rather than dialog which lays everything out. The one drawback to the film is just how familiar and formulaic it all plays out. There is also a confusing closing shot which seems to indicate Cencio is committing suicide, but could be taken other ways as well, and the ambiguity doesn’t work well. All in all a simple story well told, just not with as much inspiration as it could have had.
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