Simple human stories, even if they often earn condescension from self-conscious cineastes, can at times mask understated complexity through deftness of touch, narrative brevity, poignancy and university, and thus be deceptively affecting. Argentine filmmaker Matias Lucchesi’s refreshingly assured debut feature Natural Sciences might not, therefore, evoke explosive reactions, but it nevertheless warmed the cockles of my heart. At its centre lies a marvelous turn by 10-year old Paula Hertzog as Lila, a young girl obsessed with finding her father who she’s never seen or even known. Hence, much to the consternation of her mom and the principal of the boarding school she studies in, she keeps making desperate attempts to undertake this seemingly absurd odyssey. Her refusal to tone down finally compels her empathetic science teacher (Paola Barrientos) to help her, and armed with the flimsiest clue imaginable, they embark on an adventurous road trip to a shanty town, where they meet, among a few others, an ageing and unwell loner (a brilliant Alvin Astorga), who’s been alone for so long that he just doesn’t know what to do or how to react to this cute, perky and incredibly stubborn, albeit tongue-tied, little girl who, to his utter dismay, claims be his daughter. The film’s simplicity and minimalism, combined with a subtle interplay between quirky humour and melancholia, and with a harshly beautiful natural backdrop, made this a heartwarming watch. And, though it would be ludicrous to place it in the same ballpark as Angelopoulous’ ravishing masterpiece Landscape in the Mist, or for that matter Szabo’s heartbreaking gem Apa or Wenders’ mesmerizing road movie Alice in the Cities, its thematic resemblances to them, among a few others, is worth noting.
Director: Matias Lucchesi
Genre: Drama/Road Movie