I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
A two-and-a-half-hour ode to an apartment? Among the many marvelous things about Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho’s drama about a slow-burn battle between a woman and the construction company trying to drive her from her home is that it flies by: every moment is beautifully necessary to the vital story it wants to tell and the melancholy mood it wants to create. It is an absolute joy to spend time with Clara, a retired music critic and a longtime widow who, at 65 years of age, is far from being an old lady: the amazing Sonia Braga (Empire) makes her burn with a fierce intelligence and a lively sensuality, all of which fuels her desire to remain in the apartment where she has lived for decades. But she is the last resident left in the elegant old building, the Aquarius, on a gorgeous seaside boulevard in the Brazilian city of Recife: everyone else has been bought out by the developers who want to toss up a modern residential skyscraper. The battle of wills she engages in as the developers try to make living there as difficult as possible becomes a backdrop for a meditation on aging, home, memory, family — the rich tapestry of experience and hope and relationships that make up a life — that sprawls across decades but is deeply intimate. Clara’s adult children, whom she raised in this apartment, worry about her living in “a ghost building,” but just as she likens a secondhand vinyl record album to a “message in a bottle” (there’s a secret hidden in the sleeve), so is her home her own grand message in a bottle speaking secretly to her. As the extraordinarily conceived ending suggests, with startling beauty and insight, a home — not merely a residence but a well-loved, well-lived-in home — is an extension of our bodies, and hence not easily thrown off. This is a stunning film, haunting and wise and unforgettable.