Days of the Whale is a new Colombian film directed by Catalina Arroyave Restrepo. It tells the story of two young graffiti artists living in Medellin who navigate life and make a statement by painting a mural of a whale over a warning from a gang. The movie made its debut at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.
The story of the film is definitely very minimal and simplistic, but therein lies the appeal. It is not meant to be a movie weighed down by a complex or convoluted storyline. Instead, it is meant to be a nuanced but simple human tale that has a great deal of emotional resonance. In fact, the real plot doesn’t even kick in until about halfway through, and that’s fine.
In terms of character development, the film was quite strong. The two protagonists, Cristina and Simon, are both extremely likable characters. We want their relationship to grow and develop over the course of the movie. The fact that these characters are so compelling allows us to get involved with the story and want to see the storyline progress.
The subplots in the film are where it isn’t as successful. Perhaps the most frustrating subplot is the one involving Cristina’s mother. This storyline had a lot of potential to be impactful and meaningful, with evaluation of themes including divorce and the freedom of press, but instead the focus is placed on the relationship at the core of the movie.
With an extremely short runtime, the film goes by in a breeze. There are a lot of moments that are entertaining, especially towards the beginning. Additionally, since you are involved in the characters and their story, the movie is able to maintain interest easily. However, the film could have spared to be ten or twenty minutes longer to flesh out some of the subplots more fully.
The actors in the movie all do a very good job in their roles. Laura Tobón, who plays the lead of the film, gives a phenomenal performance. She brings quite a bit of nuance to the role and has brilliant chemistry with her male co-star. It is her performance that truly sells the movie, as the level of emotion she infuses makes the story all the more compelling.
The film is also quite strong on a technical level. The visuals are phenomenal and have a surreal, dream-like feel to them. This does a really great job of heightening the weirder and more metaphorical elements of the movie’s story. The production design is also excellent, with the graffiti art being absolutely wonderful.
Overall, Days of the Whale was a quite impressive film. It has an interesting story, compelling characters, and great execution. Be sure to check this one out.
Days of the Whale is now playing at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.