Though ostensibly documentary, The Lifeguard’s shrewdly observed drama unfolds as precisely as any plotted fiction. On a busy Chilean beach, dreadlocked attendant Mauricio rules his stretch of sand with sarcasm and stubbornness. Whether chastising a man for wearing unsuitable bathing wear or antagonising teens who’ve encroached on his roped-off runway, he’s an engaging subject: an unconventional exterior tethered to a conservative core. But beneath his jobsworth veneer lies messy anxiety – why, a colleague ponders, does Mauricio never venture into the sea?
As the dedicated lifeguard scans the waves for signs of distress,
director Maite Alberdi combs the sand and eavesdrops on visiting
beachgoers: insults are thrown Mauricio’s direction; busy-bodies gather
and gossip; choppy waters auger ill. It’s a simple set-up, but one ripe
with microcosmic potential – society laid bare and bronzed – and Alberdi
skilfully teases out the scenario’s subtle tension. Even at a concise
sixty-four minutes its slight components feel overstretched, but it’s
nonetheless a fascinating vignette.