DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

The Shepherd (El Pastor)

Old-fashioned Spanish country bumpkin hostile to change is tempted with the offer of a lifetime, in a plot extremely familiar to those who've seen the Brazilian classic Aquarius - in cinemas this weekend

In the first few minutes of The Shepherd, we follow a man in his daily routine of waking up in the early hours of countryside Spain. We see feed his dog, have a shower, prepare his coffee, roll and smoke a ciggie, and leave ready for the workday ahead. If only the film provided that kind of awakening…

This languid drama, directed by Spanish director Jonathan Cenzual Burley, tells the story of its titular character, Anselmo (Miguel Martín), a 55-year-old who lives in the middle of nowhere tending sheep and who likes to live a lifestyle that makes most of the most destitute B&B look like the Ritz. He’s full of praise of the simple life and yet, like the late Abbas Kiarostami’s simplicity, we can’t really put a finger on what he means.

We learn about his contempt for television shows and his fondness of old ways of consuming books: in the middle of the Amazon age, he’s more into the good libraries of yore. He doesn’t have friends, except for the sweet Concha (Maribel Iglesias), whom he vaguely seems to care for. Plus there’s his dog.

His life changes when two real estate developers appear from nowhere and make “an offer he can’t refuse” – pretty much the same wording as in The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972), except that it’s in Spanish. They want his land in exchange for virtually “anything”. Bear with me on this one: they offer a life of luxury to a guy who doesn’t care to buy a TV set. Of course, he refuses. Of course, there are other people with interests in the deal. Hell cometh.

If this sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it probably is. The feature plays like a less stylish version of Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2016), minus the social commentary and profound character development. Unlike the Brazilian film, The Shepherd doesn’t go too deep into the reasons of his resistance. Anselmo just comes across as a plain Luddite hostile to any sort of change.

The similar fate befalls upon his antagonists: Julián (Alfonso Mendiguchia), Paco (Juan Luis Sara) and Manoli (Maite Iglesias) are flat characters, archetypes of despair, wrath and greed. The script even tries to give them narrative arcs in its final third, when it seems to realise it postponed the action for too long, but these attempts feel like afterthoughts and so does the ending – which I won’t spoil here. However, to a degree, it shows Cenzual’s talent that fact that he’s able to carry on the 100-minute film with such a crew of despicable characters.

At least the cinematography makes up for the shortcomings of the story, with a lot of good shots of the Spanish wild and the exquisite sky vistas setting up the scope of the place and the imminence of danger, most of it done during the “golden hour”, resulting in images that resemble Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978).

The Shepherd is out in cinemas Friday, June 2nd.


By Lucas Pistilli - 01-06-2017

Lucas Pistilli is a Brazilian-born journalist, currently based in Italy, with a passion for cinema and film criticism. He graduated and started out as a lawyer, before branching out to journalism in s...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Sexual diversity is at the very heart of [Read More...]
Films quotes are very powerful not just because [Read More...]

Read More

Our dirty questions to Shaun Dozier

 

Eoghan Lyng - 11-04-2024

The director of The Problem of the Hero, a drama about two American playwrights grappling with racism and misogyny 80 years ago, discusses the deceptive language of theatre, steering away from the "truth", the importance of "offending" viewers, how power relations have changed, and much more - in exclusive interview [Read More...]

The First Omen

Arkasha Stevenson
2024

Victor Fraga - 09-04-2024

Star-studded, elegant prequel of 1976 classic pays tribute to several horror movies, but not without some clumsy twists and turns - in cinemas on Friday, April 5th [Read More...]

The Top 5 dirtiest cricket movies ever made!

 

Mariano Garcia - 03-04-2024

Our writer Mariano Garcia reveals that cricket isn't just one of the most watched games on TV all over the world; it has also made a big impact on the silver screen! [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *