Given the shared enormity that was living through the pandemic at its seeming peak throughout 2020 and 2021, it’s a surprise that few films have actually addressed it in a manner that’s relatable for audiences. Whilst films are an escape, it’s a reality that can’t forever be ignored, and co-writer/director/star Jesús Lloveras manages to infuse both mentalities in Ibiza Blue, a beautiful, aching drama that subtly incorporates COVID without leaning on it as a plot device.
The isolation that came with lockdowns and that yearning for connection is explored through the relationship of Julio (Gonzalo Bouza) and Carlos (Lloveras), who after a tragedy befell Julio – this opening up the film with a sombre tone – disconnected from one another. Experiencing his own trauma too, Carlos takes up from mainland Spain to the idyllic Ibiza, where Julio has settled comfortably into the life of a handyman, living in a seaside trailer; the two finding each other again in the hope of rediscovering their friendship without the distraction of the outside world – something now all too familiar.
As Julio goes about his work day, Carlos sets his sights on training his body and mind for a 9.5 kilometre swim over a stretch to a neighbouring island – something that holds more of a sentimental value than we are initially privy to. Both of their individual journeys align them with Alba (Alicia Lorente), a tourist similarly escaping her own woes, though they are ultimately unaware of their shared connection. Both men meet her in natural, unforced circumstances – Julio helping her in a professional capacity, Carlos innocently swimming up to her on a secluded beach – and she falls for each of them in differing manners.
Given how quiet the movie is in terms of its ensemble, it makes sense that Alba, Carlos and Julio would all keep to themselves regarding their new found relationships. The idea of finding a new person to connect with in a time where it was no longer something being taken for granted means Alba’s unintentional secrecy to both Carlos and Julio is justified, and though Julio alludes to meeting a woman and enjoying her company, Carlos has no reason to think it’s the very same that he has been privately entertaining. Naturally the eventual realisation of who they all are to each other is a moment that erupts with a certain ferocity, but Lloveras’s script (co-written with Joan Lloveras Mora) remains poetic and mature in how they handle such a situation; dramatic, yes, but all sound within their reasoning.
Strikingly captured – it really is so refreshing to see Ibiza presented in a more natural light than its party atmosphere often suggests – and tenderly emotional without adhering to manipulative tactics, Lloveras has crafted something genuinely beautiful and affirming with Ibiza Blue. Turning the disadvantage of a time period where travel and substantial interaction was a challenge into an intimate study, allowing these broken humans to find themselves through the relationships they didn’t know they needed, furthers his lyrical prowess as a storyteller.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Ibiza Blue is playing as part of this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival, taking place between February 8th and 18th, 2023. For more information head to the official SBIFF page.