Review: The Lighthouse of the Orcas (El faro de las orcas)

Joaquín Furriel, Maribel Verdú, and Joaquín Rapalini in El faro de las orcas, the lighthouse of the orcas

The Lighthouse of the Orcas (El faro de las orcas) is a beautiful Argentinean film based on a real person – Roberto “Beto” Bubas, a park ranger in Patagonia, Argentina.

The story takes place on the absolutely gorgeous windswept coastline of Patagonia. Sea lions fill the beaches, making tempting meals for the huge orcas that come hunt in the area.

Beto (Joaquín Furriel) is a park ranger working at the lighthouse. He is an avid whale watcher and often heads out into the ocean to play and swim with the whales. He calls the whales to him with a harmonica or by slapping the water with his palms. Films of Beto interacting with the whales are shown on YouTube in Spain.

Lola (Maribel Verdú) and her autistic son Tristán (Joaquín Rapalini) see the videos of Beto. Tristán responds favorably. Lola, who is desperate to help her child, takes him all the way to Argentina and the remote coastline in hopes of getting some kind of help from Beto.

Beto sends them away at first, but has a change of heart. He lets them stay with him in the small cottage beside the lighthouse. Slowly he exposes Tristán to the area, the sea lions, the whales. He takes Tristán riding on his horse and takes him out on the ocean in a small rowboat.

Joaquín Furriel, Maribel Verdú, and Joaquín Rapalini in The Lighthouse of the Orcas (El faro de las orcas)

The orcas come right up to the boat. They want to play, be touched. The first time Tristán is near a whale, he doesn’t do much, but eventually he makes awkward movements toward them.

Tristán remains autistic, but around all the autistic characteristics he exhibits, he adds some hesitant function. He walks to the beach. He rides the horse by himself. He calls the whales on his own.

Beto and Lola, meanwhile, have been developing a deep respect and love for one another. Lola sees what a good father Beto would be. Unfortunately, Lola has to go back to Spain because of legal issues with Tristán’s father.

Beto wants her to stay. She wants to stay. They are good together. It’s been so good for Tristán to be there. But she can’t stay. Beto finally tells her about losing his wife and son in a plane crash. They went into the ocean. The orcas make him feel connected to the sea.

Beto is losing his job because of touching the orcas. Since they are considered killers, it is forbidden to go near them, and especially to let children get near them.

The ending is bittersweet. Tristán must leave the place, the man, and the animals that have been so good for him. Beto loses his spot at the lighthouse of the orcas. Even so, the story was full of wonder and hope and love and the ending didn’t feel tragic at all.

At the end, it showed Beto on a new beach, one where there had been no orcas before. But now the orcas were coming there.

The Lighthouse of the Orcas (El faro de las orcas) is now streaming on Netflix. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles. It’s an enjoyable and beautiful film.

I couldn’t find a trailer with subtitles. How’s your Spanish?

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