Oceans Are the Real Continents (2023)

Oceans are Real Continents (2023)

Reviewing Oceans Are the Real Continents (2023) proves to be particularly difficult to me. It is not a mainstream movie by any means. The issue is that it is difficult to praise or criticise this movie since it is very different from standard movie experiences. It is slow, there is very little music, it is black and white, there is barely any action or fantasy, and yet the movie managed to captivate my attention for almost two hours. Tommaso Santambrogio, the director of Oceans Are the Real Continents, still managed to make a very unique experience.

The simplicity of this world

The story takes place in contemporary Cuba and shows the stories of multiple average Cuban citizens and their daily activities: the old grandmother who lives day to day and reads letters of her deceased husband, two young boys playing with their toys and dreaming about being part of New York Yankees and a young couple that despite their burning love for each other, might fall apart due to the woman finally receiving a work visa. 

The plot of Oceans Are the Real Continents (2023) is very simple and it does not have any sudden dramatic changes. It continues to have the same tone from beginning to the ending. The events, if you can call them that, are very mundane, simple and portray an average of a Cuban citizen. Thankfully the movie benefits from its simplicity and fits neatly with all the elements of the movie. The characters, the camera shots or the slow pacing etc. work almost in harmony with each other. 

Characters are simple and average, but despite being just that they prove themselves to be interesting and captivating. Their goals (or rather dreams) and actions, while simple, drive the plot of the movie. The characters are surprisingly played by people who have never played a role before. The director did this on purpose to make the characters more realistic and avoid exoticism which pairs very well with the story and the visuals.

The camera shots, black and white colours and the sounds

Camera shots as well as black and white colours set Cuba as a very beautifully painted place but at the same time it presents Cuba as if nothing has changed. As if the time has stopped and archived Cuba. As such the movie presents a very natural and realistic depiction of Cuba that does not try to paint over it with exoticism. Most of the camera shots used in the movie are long shots, medium shots and medium close up shots. There are also few wide shots with landscapes showing often the emptiness or tranquillity. The movie is well-shot and I haven’t seen one shot that did not fit the scene.

The movie also focuses on all the mundane and normal sounds that are presented as very beautiful and in some way special despite being commonplace. For that reason the audio is also enhanced. Thanks to that the viewer can listen to all the sounds from the wind howling to the leaves cracking under the characters’ shoes. It adds a particularly unique ambience to the movie and builds the atmosphere that fits this simple yet strange narrative. 

The highlights of Oceans Are the Real Continents (2023)

The highlights of this movie are two scenes: one is the scene of grandmother reading the last letter from her husband and the other is a theatre mannequins play. The first scene is the culmination of the grandmother reading the letters from her late husband. While reading the letter she breaks down and starts crying, having an emotional breakdown. The scene feels personal, there is no music, even the grandmother does not say anything besides crying. There is only her late husband’s voice present in the scene so the viewer understands the content of the letter.

I personally prefer the second scene, because it appeals to my love for animation and it reminds me of stop-motion movements. The play is a complete contrast with the rest of the movie. There is very little to no dialogues or monologues spoken. Instead the story is told through music and movements of the mannequins. It creates another unique experience inside an already rather unique story.

The few issues that come with the movie’s nature 

However, the movie had a few problems that made me enjoy my time in the cinema. While I understand the director’s decision to make the plot of Oceans Are the Real Continents (2023) progress slowly, it does unfortunately start to drag the movie after the first hour. Which begs the question why didn’t the director speed up some of the scenes or cut the overall run of his movie by 10-15 minutes. Such a decision likely would have benefitted the pacing of the movie, making it somewhat faster and to the point. 

Is it worth it in the end?

Oceans Are the Real Continents (2023) provides unique experience, best to see it yourself. While Mister Santambrogio can’t offer the mainstream viewer explosive visuals, CGI galore, orchestral score or intensive action, instead he delivers a slow, black and white, realistic depiction of average life in Cuba. And despite all that, he still manages to make the scenes to be well-shot, properly composed and still captivating. The black and white filter only enhances the visuals of the Cuban scenery, while still avoiding exoticism. The only issue with the movie is that it is too long and the pacing could be improved. Overall, Oceans Are the Real Continents is a surprisingly well put together debut from Tommaso Santambrogio. I highly recommend to watch when you have the possibility to.

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