“Gravity,” “127 Hours,” “Castaway”: The attempt to survive alone amid the majesty and menace of nature is a cinematic standby. With the opulent Spanish endurance saga “Solo” — a title that translates as “Alone” — Netflix enters that curiously well-populated territory.
Directed by Hugo Stuven, the film is based on the true story of Álvaro Vizcaíno, a surfer who was forced by an injury to spend two grueling days stranded at water’s edge on a remote Canary Islands beach. Immobilized by his wounds, he battles thirst, exhaustion, hallucinations and the threat of drowning in the rising tide.
Physical suffering aside, the movie’s central question is whether Álvaro — a gregarious but fundamentally standoffish sort whose wanderlust distances him from everyone he loves — truly has enough to live for.
That’s a very precise cinematic target to hit, and “Solo” winds up just wide of the mark. The film’s opening third cuts between the disaster and Álvaro’s later return to the scene with his ex-girlfriend (Aura Garrido), whom the film idealizes to the point of being more cipher than character. That structure helps Stuven set up a big surprise later on, but it irreparably dilutes the sense of danger.
Moreover, Stuven is too in love with the beauty of the beach, which he shoots like a perfume commercial, to convey properly its cruelty.
Still, the actor Alain Hernández turns in a soulful lead performance under extreme physical stress, complemented by Sergio Jiménez Lacima’s lush, romantic score. A coda involving footage of the real Vizcaíno adds unexpected power and poetry. The end result is a survival story that never quite sinks or swims, but rather drifts with the tide.