Rosina, the protagonist of The Sharks, is lost inside her own head as the world moves around her, and in her debut feature, writer/director Lucía Garibaldi does not seem to know what to make of this character. Part of that is communicated through Romina Bentancur’s performance, which is almost entirely reactive, and part of it is through the film’s loose structure and lackadaisical pacing, which suggest plenty of existential pondering without actually having much to ponder. This both is a coming-of-age tale, in that Rosina is a teen girl experiencing adult things for the first time in her life when she can process them, and is not one, in that the story ends with the girl in essentially the same state of emotional aloofness in which she resided at the beginning.

Rosina is the younger daughter in a family of four living in a small fishing village. There have been rumors of sharks stalking the waters just past the threshold of the beach near their home, but this fact is either brushed off as rumor or not dealt with in any significant way at all. Her home life is stagnant and dull. She does odd jobs on behalf of her father’s (Fabián Arenillas) business, which also employs a handful of other workers: Two of them (Bruno Pereyra and Jorge Portillo) might as well be interchangeable to Rosina and to us, although one of them is set to be married soon and the other is not. Then there is Joselo (Federico Morosini), to whom Rosina finds herself attracted—though in a passive way, even when given the chance to watch him pleasure himself.

Her older sister Mariana (a very good Antonella Aquistapache) only complicates things further by her very existence. Before the film begins, Mariana has sustained an eye injury that is firmly Rosina’s fault, but the younger sister doesn’t seem to care about that. Mariana is preparing to take a test that could land her in college, but the girls’ mother (Valeria Lois) has to think about the money coming in to pay the bills, warning her daughter that failure might put her deposit at risk, which mom hints would not be the worst outcome. Rosina has no determinable feelings about this sad truth, either. Indeed, Rosina doesn’t seem to have many feelings about anything, and Garibaldi’s staunch refusal to provide conflict of any substance doesn’t help matters.

The result is a frustrating exercise in near-total dramatic stasis. The plot follows Rosina around town as she experiences a life of drudgery with only a stony expression, a sour attitude, and not much to say about any of it. One begins to wonder why the story is being told from her perspective, which is entirely passive, and not from the perspectives of her mother or sister (or even her father, who must maintain a dwindling business from which his workers attain lower and lower pay), both of whom are far more interesting, relatively speaking, than the cypher at the center of this story. Bentancur is fine here, certainly a talent on whom to keep an eye, but the role requires almost nothing of the actress. Rosina isn’t the audience stand-in, because we might have feelings about these events.

She also, though, isn’t an active participant in the rest of the plot, for whatever the “plot” is worth. The few conflicts that arise are resolved either almost immediately or by the end without much to-do. There is no heightened drama, so as not to undermine Garibaldi’s established sense of lazy non-energy, and this is definitely the kind of story, especially as Rosina begins to put Joselo in her sights, in which some degree of melodrama might have been welcome. The closest that the film comes is the final scene, which, because it ends mid-thought and leads directly to credits, is practically irrelevant to anything the movie might be trying to say anyway. Like its namesake, The Sharks does indeed die by staying in one place for too long.

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