Gone Fishing (Días de pesca): San Sebastian Review

Gone Fishing - H 2012
Exhilarating locations, unobtrusive craftsmanship and a subtle lead performance elevate a wry fable of middle-aged redemption.

Alejandro Awada stars in a gentle drama of fish and family from Argentina's veteran writer-director Carlos Sorín

A gently charming miniature aimed squarely at older audiences, Gone Fishing (Días de pesca) sees veteran Argentinian writer/director Carlos Sorín return to his beloved Patagonia after an urban excursion with last year's Hitchcockian melodrama The Cat Vanishes. Having premiered at Toronto two weeks before, this character-study of a middle-aged salesman reconnecting with his long-estranged daughter proved more popular with audiences than critics and jurors at San Sebastian, where it was one of the few plausible Golden Shell contenders to leave empty-handed.

At home, it will likely reap modest theatrical returns along the lines of Sorín's The Road to San Diego (2006) and The Window (2008) before resurfacing as a strong proposition for TV and DVD. That said, The Cat Vanishes did exceed box-office expectations, providing the 68-year-old Sorín with his biggest success since the pictures that made his international reputation, Minimal Stories (2002) and Bombón: El perro (2004). Both of those were screened in literally dozens of festivals, and while Sorín now lags far behind younger compatriots Lucrecia Martel, Lisandro Alonso and Pablo Trapero in terms of critical cachet, his brand of whimsical, small-scale humanism retains considerable appeal.

Indeed, it's easy to take Sorín's unassuming professionalism for granted, so smoothly does he operate within his carefully established limitations. Most of the key technical personnel have worked with him before on several occasions, such as editor Mohamed Rajid and composer Nicolás Sorín - who happens to be the director's son - and while no new thematic or creative ground is being broken here, the blandly-titled Gone Fishing does crucially succeed in actually making us care about its everyman protagonist.

Marcos (Alejandro Awada) is a long-time employee of a German ball-bearing company, a 50-year-old whose job involves long periods of travel. This was presumably one factor in the break-up of his marriage and the resulting loss of contact with his grown-up daughter Ana (Victoria Almeida) - another being the alcoholism from which Alejandro has evidently managed to recover. After traveling from Buenos Aires to the scenic, sparsely-populated coastal town of Puerto Deseado, Alejandro tries to track down Ana, who apparently lives nearby, and takes steps towards going on one of the shark-fishing expeditions organized by a local company.

Further droll 'encounters at the end of the world' occur when Alejandro makes the acquaintance of a boisterous boxing-trainer (Ruben Patagonia) preparing his female charge for an imminent bout, and when he meets a trio of free-spirited young Colombians during a stroll along the beach. Marcos suddenly realizes how little he's seen of South America, and that time is starting to run out - an imperative in his desire to reconnect with Ana and get to know her husband Jose (Diego Cabaler) and young daughter.

But while there's some mention of Marcos having a "health issue", Sorín thankfully resists the temptation to amp up sentimental melodrama by giving his protagonist some kind of terminal condition. It's also refreshing that at no point does the teetotal Marcos feel the need to hit the bottle, despite the ups and downs he experiences both on sea and on dry land. Indeed, some may find that Gone Fishing is perhaps a bit too restrained and low-key for its own good, and that the material is being somewhat stretched to fill a short feature running-time of 79 minutes.

There are, however, considerable pleasures to be had in savoring the magnificent big-sky landscape of windblown coastal Patagonia - a place where "one can really breathe the air" - courtesy of Julián Apezteguia's cinematography. The presence of non-professional locals in supporting roles adds to the genial air of salty verisimilitude that prevails, while experienced character-actor Awada imbues a rare leading-man role with subtle, careworn delicacy.

Venue: San Sebastian - Donostia Film Festival (Competition), September 27, 2012.

Production company: K&S Films
Cast: Alejandro Awada, Victoria Almeida, Diego Caballero, Ruben Patagonia
Director / Screenwriter: Carlos Sorín
Producers: Hugo Sigman, Carlos Sorín
Executive producers: Leticia Cristi, Matias Mosteirin
Director of photography: Julián Apezteguia

Costume designer: Ruth Fischerman
Music: Nicolás Sorín
Editor: Mohamed Rajid

Sales agent: Celluloid Dreams, Paris
No MPAA rating, 79 minutes