The other problematic motif in the plot is the interconnectedness of everyone in the movie. We come to find that everyone is someone else's mother, son, father, lover, or belching pirate-esque guard. The appeal is understandable. This is common in books, and one of the big things people say separates this movie from others is how it actually feels a novel, like the one it was adapted from (by Camilo Castelo Branco). And the first time a character was revealed to be someone else from the past, it drew an "oh shit" from me. But, as with the layered storytelling, it got irking and corny to "Crash"-like levels at a certain point.
These two huge annoyances prevented me from appreciating this film as much as others have. Reminiscent (extremely so, in my view) of Lucchino Visconti's "The Leopard," it's a masterfully crafted work: brilliantly shot by Andre Szankowski with impeccable framing, invigorating camera movement, and excellent lighting, pretty well-scored by Jorge Arrigada (even if some elements of the music are used a little too much), and extraordinarily art directed by Isabel Branco. That's not mentioning the way Ruiz has with engrossing you that only abandons him at the end. And the story of a kid with no background who finds out about his history seems like it could lend itself to a dazzlingly immense production. But even if it spirals off in directions, the film comes to feel both too distant and then too limited. At times it seemed like it was struggling to keep moving. Some may make this argument against Malick's exceptional movie as well. Oh well. They won't be reached. I wasn't here. I can admire the skill, but the obvious, intentional emotional punch didn't hit me. B-