Aquarius

Clara, a 65-year-old widow and retired music critic, was born into a wealthy and traditional family in Recife, Brazil. She is the last resident of the Aquarius, an original two-story building, built in the 1940s, in the upper-class, seaside Boa Viagem Avenue. All the neighboring apartments have already been acquired by a company which has other plans for that plot.

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  • ★★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd

    How in this wide, watery world

    did Sonia Braga lose out to

    Jaclyn Jose for the Best Actress

    award at Cannes this year?

  • ★★★½ review by Filipe Furtado on Letterboxd

    A pretty good mix tape about things that stay. Sonia Braga deserves a lot of the praise she received, but I’d argue the film most essential element is the leisure but exact pace (140 minutes rarely moves this natural) because this is a movie about things, their ownership and the value time gives to them and it is on those moments that it feels stronger. Aquarius is very much a second film often playing a little too safe around elements that worked the previous time (another nightmare sequence, Kleber’s tendency towards demonstrative dialogue, his strong foot at mapping space). The main difference is that while Neighboring Sounds was a pressure cooker narrative about general malaise, Aquarius is specific not only in focusing in just a single character but on given these malaise more clear identified representation, as a friend pointed out while both movies have return of the repressed nightmares, the much weaker one here actually gives it a body in the old maid. Ownership plays a large role not only at who owns the building, but other ways, even in how Braga treats her nephew as a surrogate son. The movie is very good at playing its parts and contradictions against themselves, Braga’s stubbornness is both what gives her strength in her fight with the developers and what makes her not the easiest person to be around. Brazilian film critic Inacio Araujo point out how the major plot beats could come out of an old western (it even ends with a satisfying cathartic showdown), Aquarius as a whole is very much about the way time allows things repurposed this way. The old building, once as much a symbol of affluence as the new condo the developers want to replace, becomes a repository of one woman’s life. As do all those pictures, the old vinyl’s, the cars that used to be part of the family, furniture and music in general that least specific of arts that because of that can always be filled with our own meaning. No surprise the termites are the film ultimate metaphor.

  • ★★★★ review by Arthur Tuoto on Letterboxd

    Poucos filmes conseguem intuir tão bem uma certa identidade brasileira como "Aquarius". Acho que até mais do que "O Som ao Redor", existe aqui uma vontade de se dedicar a uma construção mítica do país que não passa apenas pela tensão de classes, mas que busca uma valoração cultural. Uma valoração que vai além das citações musicais ou de referências mais diretas, mas que de certa forma identifica como alguns valores culturais acabam formando o caráter de uma pessoa ou de um núcleo de pessoas.

    A veia política acaba sendo menos didática do que em "O Som ao Redor", mas ainda é um filme um pouco condescendente com algumas coisas, em especial nessa relação interpessoal de classes, nessa trânsito entre uma Clara que vai na festa da empregada doméstica mas que, ainda assim, apesar desse tratamento ultra pessoal, depende diariamente dessa relação de poder. Ou talvez o filme, de alguma forma, até assuma essa problematização consciente da classe média (aquela reunião familiar sobre as babás e sobre a exploração das empregradas em si ilustra isso bem), mas que não deixa de passar uma certa resignação nesse sentido.

    E para todos os efeitos, é um filme que sabe lidar com o drama. Toda dificuldade que "O Som ao Redor" tem de conceber uma dinâmica dramática mais elementar (uma funcionalidade básica das suas cenas individuais para além do seu drama espacial), "Aquarius" parece que resolve muito bem. E com certeza a centralização do filme na personagem da Sonia Braga ajuda muito. É das poucas atrizes que consegue de fato segurar o peso que aquele papel demanda.

    Dá a impressão que a própria mise-en-scène do Kleber parece que agora encontrou uma dinâmica ideal entre essa abordagem naturalista dos seus personagens e uma aptidão dramática um pouco mais frontal. É um filme de belos enfrentamentos, um filme que alterna tanto momentos desse drama mais elementar muito bem encenado (o embate com a filha, a cena final), como radiografias quase de palmanianas do seu espaço, momentos onde a câmera faz questão de ser sentida, de expor um movimento em prol de um ângulo, de desestabilizar uma lógica física do seu espaço em prol de um efeito inventivo. Enfim, filme de cinema.

  • ★★★★★ review by Leticia Fernandes on Letterboxd

    I grew up in my grandmother's house. My parents would drop me and my brother there in the mornings so they could go to work all day and then take us back home at night. She'd cook us lunch, get us dressed and send us off to school. I know all the neighbors from her building and from all the others down the street. They've all seen me grow up, literally. They were there when I was born, during my childhood when I was running around everywhere, spreading chaos around this building that consisted mostly of elderly people, they were there during my annoying pre-teen years when I didn't talk to anyone because of ~ teen angst ~ and they were there, and still are, when I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, couldn't get myself out of bed and just had this total change from the happy and energetic kid they knew. Now, my grandmother, or her building, never went through what Clara did, but everything about a Aquarius screams memories and nostalgia and several aspects of her family and their life hit really close home to me. My grandmother's house has as many ghosts as Clara's has and is as alive as hers is. It's been there for at least 3 generations and every corner, every piece of furniture has something to say.     

     Kléber Mendonça Filho was able to take such a simple concept and make it into a beautiful film that brings a different emotion in each scene, combining it with a amazing soundtrack (a soundtrack that I grew up with thanks to my parents who love music as much as Clara does), and Sonia Braga was, is, a force to be reckoned with. All I can say is that my brazilian pride is feeling really good about itself right now.

  • ★★★★★ review by Gabe☆Danvers on Letterboxd

    I'm a pisces.

    O dever do cidadão de bem é boicotar Aquarius.

    ★★★★★★★★★★

    The quote above is not from the movie. It's a critic review from brazilian magazine Veja - which is the most popular magazine of the country -, and it says that the duty of the good citizen is to boycott Aquarius.

    This is a movie about Clara, an elder lady, played by Sonia Braga in an absolutely mesmerizing performance, who's being tormented by a construction company which wants her to leave her apartment so they can have the whole building, something she refuses to do.

    According to one of the most influents pieces of press in Brazil, this film should be boycotted. It is the duty of the good citizen.

    This movie is a spit right to the face of the brazilian elite. We won't do their bidding, we won't be fooled.

    I grew up around people like those shown in Aquarius. In several moments, Clara's relation to her family reminds me of my own. I think this family accurately represents the essence of a brazilian family. It is deeply nostalgic. And why these people, who didn't do anything to anybody, should be bothered like that? There's a very key piece of dialogue in the film where Clara asks if there are any legal countermeasures she can take to stop this people from pursuing her... And the answer is no, there's not. If you're a good person, living in peace in the building you grew up, a bunch of elitists pricks may come to pick on you, and there's nothing you can do, they can keep doing it forever. It happens all the time. People telling you what to do, how to live your simple life, trying to steer your harmless existence. Quoting another great film that came out this year:

    Compromise where you can. Where you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, "No, you move".

    I will say this again: according to one of our most influent magazines, this film should be boycotted.

    You know what director Kleber Mendonça Filho did about this review?

    He used it in the poster.

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