Review – The Third Side of the River

By way of a synopsis of this film the best encapsulation is found on Waterland’s (the Dutch Production company that helped bring this film to fruition) site:

‘The third side of the river’ is an intense father-son drama from director and writer Celina Murga. (‘A week alone,’ ‘Ana and the others’). The power of this beautiful Argentinian feature film is the way Murga moves the apparent calm surface. You feel the tension increase. You wait for the explosion.

American director and producer Martin Scorsese is involved as executive producer. About the script he said: “I was struck by the documentary reality, the feeling for everyday life, the sense of looming danger”. Scorsese previously worked with director Celina Murga on her film ‘A week alone’ and Celina Murga was on the set of ‘Shutter Island’. ‘The third side of the river’ was nominated for a golden bear at the international Film Festival of Berlin 2014. The film is produced by Argentinian producer Tresmilmundos Cine and coproduced by German producer Rommel Film and Dutch producer Waterland Film.

Nicolas, a 16-year-old boy, lives in a small town in the Argentine province of Entre Ríos. Nicolas’ father, a much-respected local doctor, has fathered two families and lives two parallel lives. First, he has a socially acceptable marriage to a professional woman – also a doctor – with whom he has a 12 year-old son. Second is his relationship with a woman of humble origin who has born him four children. Nicolas is the eldest and the only one his father officially acknowledges. Only six blocks stand between the two houses, but Nicolas’ father does not allow the boy to walk those streets, and does not even allow him to call him “dad” in public, even though the boy carries his name.

The two women in the doctor’s life know about each other, but their lives are asotto [sic] voce secret: the whole town is fully aware of the situation, but everyone pretends not to notice. Nicolas takes this situation for granted, as though it were completely normal, for it’s the only reality he knows. Yet, the tension of the situation must inevitably explode one way or another. Nicolas will have to make a decision.

Yes, all of the above is a mouthful but it does prepare you very well for the simmering nature of the narrative. In a way the subtextual approach of this Argentinian film bears a similarity to Two Shots Fired. The difference here being that the clarity of most of the intentions, sentiments and resentments brewing beneath the surface are far clearer. The story also does boil over and without pomp or circumstance leading up to it, but it does all make sense.

Furthermore, the button on the film is perfectly placed and rendered. It’s the kind of title that had me thinking on it for quite some time in terms of some of the nuance. With many of the recent titles I’ve reviewed I’ve stewed on them for some times for many different reasons. With this one I appreciated enough of the superfice to want to plumb the depths further for my own insights on smaller moments.

However, I won’t turn this review into a ‘reading’ where I parse it all and give it all away.

In what is becoming a more prevalent modern theme the title is not something commented upon by the film in a Family Guy kind of way. The title has a paradoxical component but also offers an allusion to the region in Argentina in which the story takes place (Entre Ríos), and also the yearning for escaping the provincial trappings therein, which is in all likelihood the most universal theme contained within the story.

Much of the story does focus on Nicolás’ (Alain Devetac) interactions and reactions to his family life. At times having a myopic POV can be a detriment to a story but here there are insights, and his vantage point does end up being a window rather than a portrait allowing us to see in further.

Should the film make its way over to the US it’s definitely one worth looking for.