San Sebastian Film Review: ‘Tigre’ – Variety

The Argentinian river island setting of this rich and impressive debut becomes not just a player in the enigmatic drama, but its star.

“People get weird when the water gets high,” we’re told early on in Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra Guardiola’s rich, seductive debut “Tigre.” And in this part of the world, it seems, the water is always high. As much a mood as a movie and as much about place as plot, it’s a film that derives a great deal of its power from the minute examination of a spectacular, specific location: a small, sparsely populated, verdantly overgrown island in Argentina’s Parana Delta. Down here where old, exhausted rivers spread out into the sea, the water flows only sluggishly, the air is damp and torpid, and the swampy vegetation full of hiding places where kids develop weird rituals amid clouds of biting insects. And while the people who live here or come to visit have their own conflicts and tragedies, and while the bulldozers levelling whole areas of jungle for development threaten to change the landscape forever, still there’s an inescapable impression of ancientness, like the uncanny spirit of the delta was here long before people came and will remain long after we’re gone.

The confluence of the past, the present and the future also provides the basis for the human drama that unfolds against this enveloping backdrop. Rina (Marilú Marini) a woman in her mid-sixties, returns to the island after many years away, to the boarded-up, reeking wooden house where she raised her now middle-aged son Facundo (Agustín Rittano). She’s accompanied by her friend Elena (María Ucedo), whose coltish, rebellious teenage daughter Sabrina (Magalí Fernández) has best friend Meli (Ornella D’Elia) and gawky potential boyfriend Estebán (Tomás Raimondi) in tow. And there’s a still-younger generation on this inaccessible island too, a scattering of boys in orbit around the runaway preteen daughter of the local boatman, who rules over her little tribe with primal “Lord of the Flies”-style wildness.

Rina and Elena set to work to make the house habitable, as Rina is certain it can’t be repossessed by developers if she’s living there. Facundo is not so sure, though he has a hidden agenda regarding the sale of the house that Rina will regard as a betrayal. Meanwhile, the teenagers flirt through their sexual awakening, and…

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