Movie review of “Aquarius”: Sonia Braga’s regal face, reflective of wisdom and strength of character, is front and center in this Brazilian drama about a woman quietly fighting to remain in her longtime home. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
The camera and filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho love Sonia Braga’s face.
The director keeps the camera focused on her visage for much of “Aquarius,” in medium close-up, head on or in profile.
It’s a face with stories to tell. Strikingly beautiful in her youth, now in her 60s, the famed Brazilian actress presents to the world a countenance that reflects the passage of the years, regal, with a lived-in quality. Her jaw line is firm, sculpted. Her eyes are penetrating. It’s a face of strength and determination and stubbornness and bravery.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Aquarius,’ with Sonia Braga, Humberto Carrão, Zoraide Coleto. Written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho. 142 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains sexual situations, nudity). In Portuguese, with English subtitles. Opens Nov. 11, Sundance Cinemas (21+).
It’s perfectly suited to the character Braga plays: a woman who has experienced much, endured much (the character is a cancer survivor and has been widowed for years) and celebrated much (the rearing of children, the joys of cherished friendships).
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Her character, Clara, is a woman under siege. She’s the sole remaining resident of the Aquarius, a beachfront apartment building in her hometown of Recife, Brazil. Every other resident has sold out to a development company, but Clara adamantly refuses to move from her cozy, tidy apartment. It’s the home where she raised her family. It’s full of her books, her records, her stuff. The only way she’ll leave, she tells the developer, is to die.
The picture moves very slowly, with Filho concentrating on the quotidian elements of Clara’s life: parties attended; time spent with her adult children, who are urging her to accept the developer’s buyout offer. She’s also alone a lot, but is very comfortable in her solitude, though there is loneliness here, too, and a wish for male companionship.
There’s a sense of a noose gradually tightening, of calculated intrusions by the developer — a noisy orgy in an apartment directly overhead and disgusting vandalism — intended to drive her out.
She refuses to be intimidated and has the smarts and resources to fight back.
At 2½ hours, “Aquarius” is about a half-hour too long for the story it tells, yet it feels like a privilege to be in the presence of such a powerful character and such a quietly commanding performance.