Laura Rossellini, a widow from Rome, vacations on the Algarve coast one hot summer. One day while sunbathing, she finds a wounded man named Robert drifting in the surf on a rubber raft. She takes him home, and, after he is revived, learns his story. As they talk, their mutual attraction grows, until a group of armed men suddenly arrives looking for Robert.
A lot can be said about Portuguese director João César Monteiro and his films which are different from one another. One great thing about his works is that they have the ability to impress viewers by making them appreciate the value of a mature story which develops slowly.
This is the reason why a lot of patience is required to truly assess the greatness of his films. João César Monteiro is one of the few directors whose films are not for popcorn munching audiences who excel in inane bigotry. As far as this film is concerned one should not be misled by what is written as synopsis. “À Flor do Mar” is something more than few words which have been written as a condensed statement.
The truth is that there is hardly Any story in the film. What we really see are numerous moods and mood swings of various characters which have no bearing on this film’s beginning, middle or end. By showing an isolated house, a beach and a seashore João César Monteiro has revealed some of the most precious hidden talents of Portuguese actress Teresa Villaverde.
When Laura Rosseilini decided to abruptly interrupt her life in south of Portugal and leave for Rome, taking her children with her, she was absolutely convinced that they would no longer return to Portugal, which was according to her “a dead country”, and that she thought they had left it behind, for ever and ever. However, about a year later, Laura returns to that same house by the seashore, now in a pleasant holiday atmosphere , and she finds what is left of her family and yet something very unexpected …
She returns to an isolated house, barely protected from the confusion hovering abroad. According to “Positif” magazine, the film “perfects the contemplative and melancholy style Monteiro, with some of his sarcasm”.
“This is a film about the loss of belief in the existence of Love, a film of open wounds that have not been healed yet at Laura’s eyes, the main character. “À Flor do Mar” pervades the Light of Perfection and of “Absolute Harmony” which would be the light of Piero, as pervades the various Roberts or Robertos , where we cannot go back (Jordan, Rossellini or Browning), but all this (or all of these) are Ideas without possible materialization..
The Light of Piero is for this film as the Bach’s music, which is heard therein, is. It is an appeal, not a description. Humans are too much indiscreet for those ideas. And the “Harmony” seems to exist only in “Still Lifes” (hence, their importance and the focus on food theme all across this movie) or (another sequence capital) in another décor, when Laura is in the bôite, among incarnated. ”
Subtitles:English, French, Italian, Portuguese (muxed)