In this 2019 film from Uruguay, four people spend the day at a quarry. Needless to say, things don’t go well.
Alicia (Paula Silva) grew up in the small town of Suarez but she has since moved to the big city. When she returns to her home to visit her parents, she brings along her new boyfriend. Bruno (Augusto Gordillo) is well-educated and apparently wealthy. He’s not a fan of hunting. He finds fishing to be barbaric. He doesn’t think much of Alicia’s small town and it’s obvious, from the first minute that we see him, that he is eager to get back to the city. However, Alicia wants to spend the day at the water-filled quarry (“It’s as close to the beach as we get,” someone explains) with two of her old friends, Tincho (Rafael Beltran) and Tola (Luis Pazos). Tincho is Alicia’s ex-boyfriend and is obviously still in love with her. He gets the day off to an awkward start by telling her that he’s ready to abandon Suarez and join her in the city. Tola, meanwhile, is a cheerful joker. While Bruno and Tincho spend their timed trying to one-up each other, Tola is content to just smoke weed and drink beer. While Alicia tries to keep the peace, the tension between Tincho and Bruno continues to grow.
From the start, it’s obvious that at least one member of the group is going to eventually end up trying to kill the others. It’s just a question of who is going to snap first. The film tells its story with a deliberate pace, capturing each moment of growing tension. When Bruno kicks away Tincho’s soccer ball, we wonder, “Is this the moment that’s going drive Tincho to murder?” When Tincho taunts Bruno into risking serious injury by diving into the quarry, we again wonder if this is the moment that Bruno is going to finally lose it. Even Tola occasionally seems somewhat suspicious. I mean, no one can be that laid back! As women have done since the beginning of time, Alicia tries to keep the men from killing each other in their attempts to impress her with their displays of machismo. It takes a while but the inevitable violence does arrive and I have to say that I was actually a little surprised to see who instigated it.
En El Pozo (the name translates to In The Quarry) is a well-acted and tense film. One thing that works to the film’s advantage is that no one in the film is one-dimensional. None of them are perfect but none of them are totally evil. Bruno is correct when he says that Tincho is trying to bait him but, at the same time, Bruno is also a bit condescending to both Tincho and Alicia. Tincho may be an immature jerk but his feelings for Alicia are real. And while I sympathized and related to Alicia, I did have to wonder why she thought it would be a good idea to have her new boyfriend hang out with her ex-boyfriend in an isolated quarry. The violence erupts suddenly and the events that happen afterwards are as much a result of panic as they are of maliciousness. En El Pozo is well-acted and well-directed, with the atmosphere becoming progressively more claustrophobic as the tensions continue to rise. It all leads to appropriately dark and downbeat ending. Así es la vida.