As Jean Renoir famously noted in La Règle du Jeu, the awful thing about life is that “everyone has their reasons”, and Jonathan Cenzual Burley reveals the maxim's enduring validity in this poignant study of a contented shepherd refusing to be intimidated by the march of so-called progress. As in The Soul Of Flies (2011) and The Year And The Vineyard (2013), Cenzual Burley takes his time to let the story unfold and uses the dramatic landscape to examine the psychological state of his characters. But his ongoing trouble with endings recurs to leave an otherwise engaging saga feeling a tad rushed and implausible.
A thoughtful parable on the corrupting nature of avarice.
The underdog has become a fixture of recessional cinema, with several holding out against building schemes that would enrich their neighbours. But, while the henpecked Paco (Luis Sara) has a family to provide for and the deeply indebted Julián (Mendiguchia) stands to lose his slaughterhouse, the book-loving Anselmo (Miguel Martin) is so settled in his arduous lifestyle that no amount of money can persuade him to sell the shack in which he was born.
Acting as his own cinematographer, Cenzual Burley makes painterly use of the cloudscapes over the Salamanca plain to convey the simple pleasures Anselmo refuses to relinquish. But, following incidents with a billboard and a well, events take a melodramatic turn that doesn’t quite ring true. Nevertheless, this remains a thoughtful parable on the corrupting nature of avarice.