Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Cast: Sonia Braga, Maeve Jinkings, Irandhir Santos
Watch Aquarius online in the UK: Netflix UK
This mini-review was first published at Cannes 2016.
Neighbouring Sounds marked Brazilian director Kleber Mendonca Filho as a major talent; his new film, which premiered in competition at Cannes in 2016, Aquarius confirms it. Here’s a filmmaker with a sense of social justice but a sinewy, surprising sense of story, novelistic in intent but full of well-judged flourishes of cinematic skill.
It’s the story of Clara, a widow holding out against the property developers who want to buy – then knock down – her beloved apartment. Tensions mount; the probing zooms and suggestive sound design hint at a Haneke-esque thriller as they try to drive her out via psychological mindgames.
However, it doesn’t play out like that, because Clara is played by the formidable Sonia Braga, and she is utterly fearless. A survivor of breast cancer and a music critic with delightfully Catholic tastes, her apartment means everything to her. It’s the hub for her extended family, a place of memories and moments, somewhere to dance and drink and screw. Heart is where the home is.
Braga’s performance lifts the film somewhere that is consistently shifting but always entertaining – a study of Brazilian society, a hymn to bloody-mindedness, even an exquisitely dark David vs Goliath comedy. This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius; make sure you catch it.
Aquarius is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.