Actress- Sonia Braga has aged gracefully and playing a woman around her real age in Kleber Mendonça Filho’s latest film-‘Aquarius’ must have demanded a little to no effort—her flawless performance suggests nothing more than a woman at ease with herself and her role.
‘Aquarius’ isn’t only a strong plus for Sonia Braga, Kleber Mendonça Filho may have taken chances with his running time and slow pace but the brilliance of the two is such that, you wouldn’t realize the film runs for over two hours.
It’s a typical Brazilian movie; and it captures the breath of the sea as much as the neighborhood activities—the awful Brazilian class system entrenched on the back of skin color was touched on and the widespread case of nepotism; where almost every business is filled with close friends and family was also not left out of reach.
But the above were not the focus of Filho’s exploration or attack—the film is heavily seated on the connection between an individual and her home, a situation where every item surrounding her has a unique story to tell about her life’s journey.
Divided into three parts; the film starts with a beach scene featuring a far younger Clara (played by Bárbara Colen) in a car, blasting out “Another One Bites the Dust” in 1980. At this stage, Clara’s love and probable obsession with good music is being laid out.
The following scene was the celebration of the 70th birthday party of Clara’s great-aunt Lucia (played Thaia Perez) in an apartment, called Aquarius—the origin of the film’s title.
From the birthday messages, we are taken into the struggles of Lucia who had overcome a lot to break the existing class setback. At this stage, the audience is made aware of how young Clara fought and won a battle against breast cancer, told by his husband-Adalberto (played by Daniel Porpino).
The film then shoots us into the present, with Clara’s age set around mid-60s—this time, being played by Sonia Braga whose control of her role is phenomenal.
Though old, her beauty, charm and family connections remained intact. We are gradually pulled into her lifestyle; her beach routine and her adorable relationship with family and friends would yank the envy string in a lot of people.
Beyond her human connection, it was her admiration for good music and the perfect selection as well as placement of songs which got the best part of me.
Thirty-years later after her cancer, Clara was still living in ‘Aquarius’ where she raised all her children and had decorated the living area with a collection of records, with a piano possibly as old as her still sitting around—these together with several other items and the beautiful sea view made up her pot of memories.
When the strong connection between Clara and her home is well established—and the high place ‘Aquarius’ occupies in her memories and soul has been cleverly showcased to the audience, a developer company- Bonfim sets in—attempting to take Clara out of her glorious and memory packed home.
Despite everyone in the apartment building having bought into the generous proposal of this estate developer company, Clara decided to kick against the strong wave, even to the surprise of her children—especially her daughter-Ana Paula (played Maeve Jinkings) who considered moving out as the best and safer option.
Clara seemed tough, stubborn and perhaps skeptical and unwelcoming of change—but deep down, she was not resisting just a neighborhood relocation, rather she wanted to hold her memories and everything she has so well-known together, against corporate property exploitation.
With Clara serving as the only bulwark thwarting a complete ownership of ‘Aquarius’, it got unpleasant: Bonfim resulted to cruel tactics to pressure and throw her out on the back of unbearable frustration.
But Clara isn’t the kind of woman who gives up—remember, she won over cancer 30 years ago.
The film is slow, but for a good reason; Kleber Mendonça Filho takes his time to build the block of his characters and laced the entire film with great music, something many will dance to, alongside Clara. It’s a brilliant showcase of the priceless value people place on their homes, especially when that’s all they’ve known.
(Brazil-France) An SBS Distribution release (in France) of a CinemaScópio, SBS Films, Videofilmes, Globo Filmes production. (International sales: SBS International, Paris.) Co-producer, Walter Salles. Executive producer, Dora Amorim.
Directed, written by Kleber Mendonça Filho. Camera (color, widescreen), Pedro Sotero, Fabricio Tadeu; editor, Eduardo Serrano; production designers, Juliano Dornelles, Thales Junqueira; art director, Tyaga Sà; costume designer, Rita Azevedo; sound, Nicolas Hallet, Ricardo Cutz; associate producer, Carlos Diegues; 1st assistant director, Milena Times.
Sonia Braga, Maeve Jinkings, Irandhir Santos, Humberto Carrão, Zoraide Coleto, Fernando Teixeira, Buda Lira, Paula De Renor, Bárbara Colen, Daniel Porpino, Pedro Queiroz, Carla Ribas, Germano Melo, Julia Bernat, Thaia Perez, Arly Arnaud, Leo Wainer, Lula Terra, Allan Souza Lima, Valdeci Junior. (Portuguese dialogue).