VOD Review - Sand Dollars (Dólares de Arena)

This is the Dominican Republic's official submission to the 88th Academy Awards. It didn't get the nomination. It premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Breaking Glass Pictures acquired it in early 2015 and then released it on DVD on November 24. It's set in Las Terrenas, a town on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic, a country that borders Haiti on an island in the Caribbean Sea. Las Terrenas has white-sand beaches and clear waters. It's a popular, tourist destination.

Geraldine Chaplin stars as Anne, a middle-age woman who speaks both Spanish and French. She's a middle-age, white woman who could be classified as a tourist. She has a hotel or hotel-like residence near the beach where she lives. It might be a rental, but she gets regular service from a male housekeeper. However, her status is in question, as she ponders returning to Europe. Yet, there's something in Las Terrenas for which she might want to stay.

Yanet Mojica co-stars as Noeli, a young, beautiful, dark-skinned, Dominican girl. She's probably not older than 25, and she's the girlfriend of Anne who is probably in her late 60's. We don't really see Noeli and Anne kiss or have sex. It's perhaps implied, but all we see is the two hanging out, going swimming or going shopping.

Based on an opening scene, it's hinted that Noeli might not be with Anne because she's in love. The implication is that Anne is only a source of cash and gifts for Noeli. Noeli might be pretending to be Anne's lesbian lover, if only to get money from her.

Ricardo Ariel Toribio also co-stars as Yeremi. He's the boyfriend of Noeli. Anytime she's not with Anne, she hops on her motorcycle to go be with Yeremi who like her is young, if not teenage. He can't really provide the kind of life that Noeli would want, but he does care about her.

It gets to a point where Noeli has to decide with whom she wants to be. Does she go with Anne who might return to Europe, or does she stay with Yeremi and have the typical life? As the movie goes along, Noeli's decision becomes clear. Her responses to one over the other become apparent. She could go either way, and writers and directors Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán do balance the option, but Noeli's final choice makes sense.

It's a very simple story in that regard with which Cárdenas and Guzmán don't do more. Perhaps, this film is supposed to be an expression of what they feel is the essential dilemma with that country. On a superficial level, it is a rejection of a same-sex relationship, which I didn't appreciate, but culturally if not age-wise, the two are too mis-matched, so it makes sense, but I wish the filmmakers gave more of an idea of the history of Chaplin's character. She felt a little too distant.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for general audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 24 mins.
Available on Netflix Watch Instant.


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