Coming to theaters from writer/director Julio Quintana, Executive Producers Terrence Malick and Sarah Green with Outsider Pictures is the journey of “The Vessel.”
It has been years since a tsunami left a small town in ruins as an elementary school is washed away along with 46 children. The women refuse to have more children and dress in black living their sadness day to say.
The town priest Father Douglas (Martin Sheen) is the spiritual leader of a very small town. Father Douglas tries to help the women find peace with what the ocean took but they are stuck in their sadness. Leo (Lucas Quintana) is a young man taking care of his mother Fidelia (Jacqueline Duprey) who lost her son to the tsunami.
When Gabriel (Hiram Delgado) decides it is time to leave the soul crushing town, Leo puts together transportation as a farewell gift. That night they sneak into the sacramental wine and walk along the ocean wall. In a second everything for the town changes once again.
After Leo’s mysterious water resurrection the town begins to experience change that is both mysterious and wonderful. Believing that God has not forgotten their town, the first woman to leave the black behind under the influence of Leo is Soraya (Aris Mejias). He is thrilled to be close to the woman he has loved since he was eleven years old.
They become close and Soraya understands the pain that Fidelia feels having lost her husband in the same tsunami. Father Douglas believes that Leo could have a major influence on the town if he talked about his experience. Instead the young man begins building a boat out of the wood left from the washed out school house.
But there are those in the town who refuse to let go of their grief and when one of the towns-women passes, her husband and the town blame Leo for not saving her. Their frustration and pent up anger come out in a blaze.
Leo, still wanting to leave this place, tries one final act to discover if God truly has a bigger purpose for him. It is a final act that will change them all forever.
Martin Sheen once again gives a performance that is stunning, moving and absolutely beautiful. The last time this actor moved me this much was in the 2010 stunning film “The Way.” These two films have the human experience in common and Sheen brings sadness and heart into this character determined to keep the hope of his flock alive. There are cinematic moments where Sheen is all in and no words need ever be spoken.
Quintana as Leo (and is also the brother of director Julio Quintana) has the same effect as Sheen with his moments of silence. Also narrating the events, Quintana doesn’t become emotionally vacant as this character could easily have done. Instead there are wisps of sadness, longing and a wish to bring peace to the unrest he is surrounded by. Such a beautifully haunting character and Quintana is solely responsible.
Mejias as Soraya lives in an unchanged world. Surrounded by her husband’s books and a daily walk for water, it is Leo’s presence that she changes slowly. There is something about Mejias performance that lives in her expressions I adore so much. So magnificently done.
Duprey as Fidelia has daily walks to the shore followed by the tapping of the dinner plate (which would seriously make me nuts) yet Leo is the dutiful son. Duprey doesn’t have a lot to say but even in her characters life, it is in the awakening moment that nothing else matters to either Mother or son except life.
Other cast include: Hiram Delgado as Gabriel, Jorge Luis Ramos as Pedro, Elia Enid Cadillas as Concha, Sunshine Logrono as Oscar, Julio Velez as Bigo, Leslie Van Zandt as Ingrid, Marise Alvarez as Mariela and Leonardo Castro as Primo.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “The Vessel” four tubs of popcorn out of five. This is such a beautiful story from beginning to the last scene. The imagery is stunning with a story that absolutely rips at the heart. The characters, every one of them, lends to the heaviness of this small town through their deeds.
Director Quintana says about his inspiration for writing the script, “I was faced with a serious dilemma: if my most fundamental questions are unanswered, what is my purpose and how can I find the meaning in my life? This question became the central theme as I wrote “The Vessel”, and I created a fictional community that is faced with a powerful and mysterious event, and is forced to struggle with its meaning. Is this a sign from God or just a meaningless string of unrelated events?”
“The Vessel” is not a lecture on God but more a view of this towns beliefs, their traditions, superstitions and understandable heartbreak. Stuck in their own inability to move on they may embrace Leo but to change their lives is cause for trouble.
The cinematography of the town and the beautiful ocean shots gives “The Vessel” another character in the film that needs recognizing. The town is rough and crumbling just like those who live there. The ocean seems to wait for them all and the shore scene where Soraya steps in experiences like a forgiving taking place. Just wonderful.
In the end — we are all miracles.