What to make of “The Vessel,” a message-laden, oddly powerful parable — or is it? — that combines a kind of end-of-the-world angst with the starry-eyed hope of new beginnings. It’s a strange brew: stark yet beautiful, urgent yet dreamlike.
Oh, and there’s an ark — of sorts.
Is that patched-together boat here the “vessel” in question or does the title refer to main character Leo (Lucas Quintana), a soulful young man who “dies” in a drowning accident only to return to life three hours later with — perhaps — special healing powers?
And will the haunted, humble Leo prove the savior his crumbling Puerto Rican coastal village and its faith-shattered citizens still desperately need 10 years after a tsunami (simply dubbed “the wave”) claimed the lives of 46 of its children?
Meanwhile, a kindly Catholic priest, Father Douglas (Martin Sheen), helps Leo and his fellow townsfolk, including Leo’s deeply traumatized mother (Jacqueline Duprey) and Leo’s longtime love interest (Aris Mejias), grapple with spiritual matters, aptly and summarily asserting that “a miracle is just a tragedy narrowly avoided by chance.”
First-time feature writer-director Julio Quintana (Lucas’ brother) keeps things stirringly enigmatic in ways that, not unlike the work of one of the film’s executive producers, Terrence Malick, can both absorb and frustrate. But for more adventurous viewers, the strikingly shot “The Vessel” is one mind-trip worth taking.
In Spanish and English with English subtitles.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some partial nudity/sensuality and thematic elements
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.
Playing: In limited release