Film Review: The Shepherd (El Pastor)

There’s something about rooting for the underdog which brings people together. Whilst traditionally cinema has reflected this in sport movies (such as Rocky, A League of Their Own or Cool Runnings), there’s been a more politicised shift of late. Whether that be Daniel Blake in Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner or Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-nominated performance in Two Days, One Night. In Jonathan Cenzual Burley’s The Shepherd (El Pastor), one man must fight to keep his home.

Anselmo (Miguel Martín) lives a quiet but content life with his dog Pillo in the middle of the Spanish plains. By day he tends his flock of sheep, by night he’s either alone in his ramshackle house or at a bar in a nearby village. When a construction company wants to buy his land, he has no intention of selling. However, Anselmo’s neighbours Paco (Juan Luis Sara) and Julian (Alfonso Mendiguchía) have no such qualms and their greed knows no boundaries.

The Shepherd is a slow-burning powerful drama about one man’s struggle to retain his heritage. Anselmo’s steadfastness is not just driven by stubbornness. This life is all he’s known. In a similar vein to Icíar Bollaín’s The Olive Tree, the trials of ‘progress’ in rural Spain are brought to the fore. However, Martin’s potent central performance gives The Shepherd a powerful solidifying vision. It’s a compelling drama of might versus an immovable force.

The Shepherd (El Pastor) is in cinemas 2 June.

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