Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius couldn’t have felt a more dramatic departure vis-à-vis his latest film Bacurau; though it did have a few stylistic flourishes – a passionate flashback here and a sweeping pan-zoom there, which might connect back to the B-film form and pyrotechnics of the latter – this was otherwise a startlingly intimate piece of work, imbued with intensely personal memories that one fiercely holds on to, fleeting longings for physical desires, familial differences, and the defiant refusal to budge. At the center was a superlative turn by Sônia Braga as the sexagenarian Clara – family matriarch, empathetic and strong-willed widow, cancer survivor, and musicologist with an eclectic LP collection. She’s also deeply fond of her thoughtfully decorated apartment in the eponymous building in Recife, with glorious views of the Atlantic Ocean. Her life is a mix of the mundane – going to the beach for morning swims, chatting with her housekeeper (Zoraide Coleto), meeting with her family, dancing alone to music in her flat – alternated with moments of both joy and resentment with her family, chance intimacy with strangers, and even a passionate encounter with a gigolo. Her carefully laid out life, however, starts experiencing ripples when the unctuous American-educated grandson (Humberto Carrão) of a powerful property developer starts using nefarious means to hound her out of her place as she’s steadfastly refused to sell it to them even as every other occupant has vacated the building. Mendonça explored a number of stirring themes in this quietly absorbing tapestry, including brittle societal fault-lines borne out of class differences and racial prejudices, exploration of sexual yearnings of an ageing woman, and incessant realteration of urban neighbourhoods by corrupt land sharks.
Director: Kleber Mendonca Filho
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama