A pitch-perfect rural mystery, “Santoalla” chronicles what happens when a progressive Dutch couple, Martin Verfondern and Margo Pool, escape the constraints and complications of the city by decamping to the Spanish countryside. Exhausted after a fight against developers intent on knocking down their neighborhood for luxury housing, Martin and Margo move to the smallest, most out-of-the-way town imaginable — Santoalla, a crumbling ghost town whose population has been reduced to a single family of four, the Rodriguezes, after its other residents fled in search of jobs. Perhaps inevitably, conflicts between the newbies and old-timers arise, and after years of wrangling, Martin inexplicably disappears. Given the secluded locale and small pool of potential perps, the Rodriguez family soon falls under suspicion. “Santoalla” expertly unfolds its fascinating, dramatic story, but the film also explores issues at play in communities of all sizes, especially the question of who controls common land. The Spaniards, for example, object to the couple’s use of abandoned stones from the town’s decaying buildings. More provocatively, the self-proclaimed mayor of the village — the Rodriguez patriarch — pockets all the money from the village’s communally held logging rights, cutting out the new arrivals entirely. A town of only six people thus becomes the smallest possible microcosm of a big city, including the requisite “government” greed and corruption. And for those who insist on tidy endings: Yes, the mystery of Martin’s disappearance is satisfyingly resolved.
The Rain Will Follow
Though confined to a nursing home, 90-year-old Melvin Wisdahl lives a rich interior life, filled with memories of his ghost town of a home and his love of the ever-evolving and threatened land.