Tribeca 2024 Review: THE FRESHLY CUT GRASS, Quietly Assured Mutual Destruction

Marina de Tavira, Joaquín Furriel, Emanuel Parga and Verónica Gerez star in director Celina Murga's finely-tuned drama.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
Tribeca 2024 Review: THE FRESHLY CUT GRASS, Quietly Assured Mutual Destruction

Two college professors make the same fateful decision, which then ripples through and rips up their lives.

The Freshly Cut Grass
The film enjoys its world premiere at Tribeca Festival. It screens again on Thursday, June 13, and Friday, June 14.

Where did it all go wrong? And can we make it right?

Natalie (Marina de Tavira) and Pablo (Joaquín Furriel) are both middle-aged professionals. They are both married with children. They are both intelligent people. They are both academics at the same university in South America. And they are both desperately unhappy.

Though they both teach at the same school, they otherwise do not interact; there is little to no indication that they have ever met. Yet their lives parallel each other, as they follow similar paths, as each meets a younger person who is in their orbit, and sparks with them. And all fires start with a single spark, so we can easily suspect where things will likely go.

The film's English-language title drops the first two words, "El aroma" of the original title -- in Spanish, El aroma del pasto recién cortado -- which translate as "the fragrance." It's a small thing, but this is a movie of small things that add up. In the lives of Natalie and Pablo, it's the small irritations and disagreements between them and their marital partners that accumulate. Are they looking to 'cut their losses,' as it were, and start over again? Or is the smell of the grass sufficient to remind them of when they themselves (and their relationships) were newer and younger?

Individually, it seems like it would be easy to dismiss or forget small things as they occur, but both Natalie and Pablo do not easily dismiss what other people consider to be trivialities; to them, the small things are emblematic of bigger things, and those they definiitely cannot dismiss out of their mind. They remain and slowly erode what they spent years building up in their relationships with their respestive partners.

The younger romantic interests -- Gonzalo (Emanuel Parga) for Natalie and Luciana (Verónica Gerez) for Pablo -- are likely, to a large extent, similar in personality to their current marital partners in their younger years, before the children and family pressures and economic concerns and all the pressures of middle-aged life begin to take their toll. After all, once we've developed and/or know the "type" of person and personality that attracts us, we all tend to be drawn back to that same "type," over and over again.

Director Celina Murga (Ana y los otros, 2003; The Third Side of the River, 2014), working from a screenplay she wrote with Juan Villegas and Lucía Osorio, develops the storylines in parallel, but each carves a different path, depending on the differences between her two leads, who each define their characters as individuals with grace and empathy. This is not a film of big dramatic swings but of gradual changes, as Natalie and Pablo endeavor to make continuous, if often minute, corrections to their course.

They are not driven by moral or religious grounds, but by their own sense of what is right and wrong for them, individually. That generates plenty of food for dramatic thought, and for the viewer to decide what they might do in a similar situation, and whether they could be happy with the outcome.

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Celina MurgaEmanuel PargaJoaquín FurrielMarina de TaviraTribeca 2024Tribeca Festival 2024Verónica Gerez

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