Wisconsin Film Festival Spotlight: “Tanta Agua”


Tickets for the 2014 Wisconsin Film Festival went on sale March 8, and each day between now and the start of the festival on April 3, I’ll be zooming in on one of the more than 140 films playing at the festival. If you have suggestions about films you’d like to know more about as you’re planning your festival experience, let me know in comments.

Tanta Agua” (2:15 p.m. Saturday, Sundance Cinemas, and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Chazen Museum of Art)

Boy does anybody have a good vacation anymore in foreign films? In “The Amazing Catfish” a family’s beach vacation is tainted by the fact that their mother is terminally ill, while in “Club Sandwich” a mother has to contend with her son’s burgeoning sex drive while at a resort motel.

By comparison, the family in the Uruguayan comedy “Tanta Agua” (“So Much Water”) don’t have as much emotional trauma to deal with — at least at first — as much as lousy weather. A divorced dad (Nestor Guzzini) takes his teenage daughter Lucia (Malu Chouza) and 10-year-old son Fede (Joaquin Castiglioni) to the resort town of Salto for a week of sun and fun.

Except there’s so much water — heavy rains force the family to stay inside their cramped, TV-free motel room for most of the week, or for the family to take dispiriting field trips to the local dam for something to do. First-time filmmakers Ana Guevara Pose and Laticia Jorge Romero capture the quiet tensions of the trio, the dad trying to cram a summer’s worth of family bonding in a week, the kids having none of it.

Lucia in particular goes wandering in search of other teens, and develops a crush on an older boy in a neighboring cabin. “Tanta Agua” draws parallels between the torrents of rainfall and Lucia’s own rampaging hormones, which lead her into some humiliating situations.

“Tanta Agua” at times moves about as slowly as a day stuck indoors, often opting for realism over, you know, something happening. But the film is quietly funny and keenly observant of all three of its family characters, nudging them closer together without overselling a happy ending. But the ending — set appropriately to the Pixies’ “Stormy Weather” — is a good one, and it’s hard to leave these characters behind when the closing credits roll.

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