Pablo Giorgelli's drama Las Acacias begins quietly, if not unpromisingly, with a study of the routines of a middle-aged truck driver (German de Silva) charged with the task of transporting logs from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. Gruff, taciturn, solitary, he's as strong and silent as the trees encoded in the film's title. Yet in the opening shot, we've seen these acacias being felled, and the driver will also be, if not floored, then at least softened after he picks up a madonna with child - well, a middle-aged apparition of same (Hebe Duarte) - sent to him for reasons that initially are left unclear. The process is not quite as immediate as shouting timber and standing well back; it's dependent on a slow drip of emotion, mollifying the man. For much of Giorgelli's film, we're simply riding up front with these two individuals, and Martin Litmanovich's sound design makes us aware of every last, awkward gearshift - the only noise disrupting the film's generally silent first half, until the baby starts wailing.
There's not much more to Las Acacias than that, the external progress of the lorry along the road facilitating the rather more hard-won progress in the relationship being formed within it. What keeps the thing ticking over is Giorgelli's casting. That the director has half an eye on turning in an arthouse crowdpleaser is evident from his selection of the most cherubic baby on the whole South American continent, but the grown-ups are good, lived-in, ordinary types, more present and direct than the non-professionals the arthouse tends to favour, and able to keep phoniness away from what could have been a highly sentimental journey: de Silva just shades it, not necessarily a macho man in the Latin tradition, but a man's man, a loner coming to realise how lonely his life has become. On balance, a safer rental option may be Due Date - which features far less staring out of the side windows - but Las Acacias has a quiet, ambulant charm well-suited to matinee viewing; if it runs the risk of having some passengers fall asleep in the back, you do find yourself growing increasingly fond of this pair, puttering onwards into an uncertain future.
Las Acacias is now available on DVD.