"Liverpool", de Lisandro Alonso (Los Angeles Times)

Set in Tierra del Fuego, Lisandro Alonso's 'Liverpool' follows a merchant seaman's quest to find his mom.

By Kevin Thomas

March 5, 2010

Acclaimed experimental Argentinian writer-director Lisandro Alonso's "Liverpool," which was featured in the Directors Fortnight at Cannes in 2008, is a bold, successful attempt at a film narrative in which images are everything and words are few.

Juan Fernandez's Farrel is a lean, good-looking but introverted merchant seaman who asks his freighter captain for shore leave in the port city of Ushuaia, the southernmost town in Tierra del Fuego. It is the dead of winter and Farrel has decided to make his way to his native village to see, after a 20-year absence, if his mother is still alive. (The film's title most likely refers to the freighter's city of origin.)

It takes Farrel about an hour of the film's 84 minutes to get there and, by then, it is more than clear that Farrel is a hard-drinking loner. The freighter seems like a spacious cocoon with an atmosphere of low-key camaraderie in which Farrel is not much of a participant but which probably gives him a feeling of security.

His home village, a community with sheep and a sawmill, could just as well be anywhere in the world where there's lots of snow. What awaits him there is complex, elliptical and ambiguous -- and quietly devastating. In his fourth feature, Alonso trusts fully in the power of the camera to communicate emotions and connections with a stunning grace and total confidence.

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