Directed by: Celina Murga | 90 minutes | drama | Actors: Alian Devetac, Daniel Veronese, Gabriela Ferrero, Irina Wetzel, Tomás Omacini, Dylan Agostini Vandenbosch, Gabriela Perinotto, Lucas Molina, Leonardo Barthelémy, Joaquín Tomassi, Fernando Abadi
It is more common in movies (and probably also in real life): men who lead a double life and have several women or even families. For example, in “The Other Woman” (2014), Cameron Diaz is shocked to discover that her boyfriend has long been married to Leslie Mann. In 1980s comedy “Micki + Maude” (1984), Dudley Moore must prevent his two pregnant husbands from meeting. You already notice: maintaining a relationship with two women must be hidden to avoid painful situations. However, in the Argentinian film “The Third Side of the River” (“La tercera orilla”), things are different: having two families is not something to be necessarily secretive about.
Main character Nicolas, a 17-year-old boy, has a father who has another family, an official family that is. Nicolas’ mom is there for the regular sex. The fact that this has led to three children, of which Nicolas is the eldest, is just a coincidence. Jorge is a respected doctor, farmer, dominant and used to get his way. If he already feels guilty about his double life, he buys it off with expensive gifts or cash. As Nicolas’s maturity draws closer, he starts to resist his father more and more. And that while Jorge is more and more concerned about his eldest son …
Celina Murga co-wrote the screenplay for “The Third Side of the River”, her third feature film (after “Ana y los otros” and “Una semana solos”) with Gabriel Medina. The reason was a news report. A seventeen-year-old boy had murdered his father, his official wife and their child. Murga was not interested in an explosive denouement like in the sad true story, but much more in the complex father-son relationship. In “The Third Side of the River” Nicolas hardly says a word, but still waters appear to have deep roots again, also on the silver screen. The look in his eyes and posture betray a lot, and it is clear that Dad’s attempts to turn his dear son into a man (with booze, willing women and a shotgun, how else?) Are only reluctant. Nicolas does not need his father at all, he is already an adult in his job as the second husband in the family; in fact, he even stands up for his half-brother who was bullied at school.
As convincing as the debuting Alian Devetac is here, he alone cannot save “The Third Side of the River”. In too many elongated, almost documentary-like scenes, we see Nicolas only observing, obeying or completely ignoring his father. There are countless moments where you would like the characters to express their feelings, but frustratingly, that just doesn’t happen. Not even when Jorge is literally and figuratively out of the picture – and so there is room for communication. It just keeps on brewing. In addition, any form of background information is missing, which would have increased involvement with the characters. And it feels strange that the situation is accepted by those involved.
When a (potentially) life-changing decision is finally made (it remains a mysterious action, the consequences of which are not clear), it feels unnatural: as if you saw a play in the previous hour and a half. It doesn’t seem to be in line with Nicolas’s personality. However, if you don’t mind that a film raises more questions than it answers, you can give this slow and subdued character sketch a chance. After all, Martin Scorsese – Murga was apprenticed to him for a while – did not attach his name to this film for nothing.