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.  Beware the spoilers.

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. Unfortunately, Lola has to go back to Spain because of legal issues with Tristán’s father.

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

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.

The lighthouse of the orcas poster

This trailer doesn’t have subtitles. Couldn’t find one with them.

The Lighthouse of the Orcas Trailer from Oscar Duran on Vimeo.

42 thoughts on “Review: The Lighthouse of the Orcas (El faro de las orcas)”


    Beautiful movie. However had to google what became of Tris. Did he live or die? Wasnt sure. But now i have my answer.

    1. Please tell me about Tristan! I’m making a a school work about the real story, the real Tristan, the real Lola and the real beto.
      We found the real Beto but it’s hard to find the real Tristan and Lola. If you could give me what you know I’d be very happy!

      1. I googled Beto and the book. ‘Tristan is now 19, is and artist, in university and has a girlfriend’ End quote

      2. Amazing!
        what a fluke to have found this this for Earth Day!
        Not gonna lie, I am a bit disturbed by the ending. Even though I want my optimistic self to believe Tristan is alive and carrying on the tradition with the Orcas. But because Tristan was underwater at the end it disturbed me!!!

      3. Annette Hemphill

        In real life he is alive, at uni and girlfriend.

        Like you I wondered if Tristan drowned or died at sea then becoming one with the orca.

        Just once I’d love to see such.a powerful and beautiful movie end in a happy note.

        With our world in peril re climate change, our destruction of our beautiful planet, ugliness and terrorism and hatred and violence we need more movies like this….just as it was in the 50-60s.

        Highly recommend the movie with a box of tissues.

  2. Looks like the real Tristan did survive.
    I found this in another article:

    ….. “Then a second miracle happened. Thousands of kilometers away, a 9-year-old boy who had never spoken up to that moment started to pat the TV screen, exclaiming “Me! Me!”. Agustín’s stunned parents took him to Valdés Peninsula. Bubas wrote a book based on that story, “Agustín Open Heart,” now becoming a movie.

    Agustín, the boy that had been diagnosed with autism, is now 19, is an artist, attends university and has a girlfriend. Asked about this boy’s recovery, Bubas says that perhaps it wasn’t him that had a condition, but that the world is ill. Indeed. Perhaps there is a case of collective autism that prevents us from knowing the world we live in.”….

    {I have an autistic son. I loved this movie. It was beautifully done. I wish narrow minded people didn’t make laws to cut us off from nature and touching her creatures. I think my son would benefit from interacting with Dolphins}

    1. Nature is ever a wonderful teacher, but humans must learn respect and not assume the wild creatures are always there for us, just like in Hollywood. We must always ask permission. And not participate in dolphin slaughter as documented in The Cove so that we can go to a petting aquarium. We must make the journey to meet wild creatures in their own element and allow them to choose the encounter, not force it upon them.

    2. How very very true. I hate the way our planet is dying, we need more beauty like this movie to be put back into the hearts of stone today.

      I was a veteran firefighter of 47 years and the fires in Canberra was the start of something not right. All of us veteran firies have pleaded and told the mongrel politicians that MOTHER NATURE IS VERY SICK AND CRYING OUT FOR HELP.. Our massive fires in 2019-2020 in NSW WAS A WARNING TO OUR POLITICIANS, INDUSTRIALISTS, ASIAN & LARGE COUNTRIES WHO IGNORE MOTHER NATURES WARNING.


      AS A FIREY we respect Fire and Mother Nature and we have seen the ugly and power.


      WE WONT.



      THEY ARE MURDERERS – of every marine, animal life, every tree, grassland etc….

      Thankyou for you help and understanding.

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  4. Absolute beautiful film. Amazing place and a powerful story that gets to your heart.
    Hermosa pelicula.. un hermoso lugar y una historia que llega al corazon

      1. If my memory serves me (at 71) I recall Tristan goes off by himself into the ocean to meet up with the orca and I was left with the impression that he chose to die because i didn’t see him come back and that’s the last we see of him…in the ocean with the orca.

      2. It’s been several years since I first watched it, but I had the idea that Tristan and his mother went back to Spain. I’ll have to watch it again now that you brought this up!

      3. Well, gosh, that ending was ambiguous, wasn’t it? I know I read somewhere that Tristan was “healed” by his contact with the orcas. I’m sure he didn’t drown. When I first watched the ending I saw it as a huge sign of growth from Tristan – he rode the horse on his own, he called the orcas with the harmonica, he swam out to touch them on his own. All that was remarkable for him and represented real change in his condition.

      4. I just watched this wonderful film last night. And in spite of a mind that normally goes to negative places, I did not think that Tristan died. I thought he had a wonderful, healing experience in line with his evolution at that point, and later traveled home to Spain (probably unwillingly), with his mother.

      5. Beverley Edwards

        Beto knew where he was going so if he thought he was in danger he would have gone after him. Who would make a movie out of real life story and end it like that if there was no way to find out what happened. A bit of research is all thats required. However some poetic licence was taken as there was no romance because both parents took the boy there.

    1. Tristan survives. Go back to the beginning of the film. Beto is looking at. a picture he has received. It is a picture of Lola and Tristan and on the back it says, “We miss you.”

      1. That was a picture of his dead wife and son. The mother saw it as she was cleaning up the mess Tristán made when they first arrived at Beto’s

  5. Absolutely loved this movie, with one exception. The romance…it would have been more “passionate” to me without the “bedroom” scene. Call me “old fashioned.” But what a beautiful movie in bringing the viewer breathtaking scenes of the ocean and orcas along with the story of an “orca whisperer,” a mother and her autistic son. I long for the New Earth/Heaven where I believe there will be oceans and orcas and I can finally interact with them.

  6. Different from the real story but very beautiful photography, inspirational movie. The boy Tristan(Agustin) is from Mexico and was brought by both parents to see Roberto Bubbas – this is why there is not too much information about the boy and mom, what happened after they left. Looks like today he is doing ok, studying, have a girlfriend and he is an artist.

  7. I loved this movie and the beautiful relationship between Beto, Tristan, that amazing white horse and the Orcas. Makes my heart sing that we have such beauty in this world. ❤️

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