This is a story about a group of fisherman from the outskirts of Lisbon that sink their boat in the mud in viewing distance from the shore, but since some are weak, old and/or injured, can’t get to safety before tragedy happens.
From the shore, their loved ones try to navigate the byzantine bureaucracy to get timely help and fail miserably. When the captain manages to reach the port authority to confirm their story, nothing will get done until morning, so they try to search independently without much success.
The film is divided between the fisherman on the river trying to reach shore, and the people on shore mostly trying to get rescue helicopters off the landing pad. There’s an element of theatre in the river scenes, since it’s mostly still shots plus bobbing in the waves, but also some powerful scenes in the mud a stone’s throw from safety. The main actors are all veteran and well known actors, and manage to imprint personality into the characters.
This was filmed after the big World Expo ‘98, so you can see the Vasco da Gama bridge in the background, so close yet inaccessible. It only serves to increase the contrast between the opulence of a big public works projects and the miserable life of people that live so close to it.
This is supposedly based on a true story, which I don’t doubt, because a couple of years ago a similar thing happened (Luz do Sameiro), this time in another region and on the sea. The news pictures show the boat barely 50 meters from the beach, it’s mind-blowing to think that people died over that.