Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho has narrowed his scope with Aquarius, after the hustle and bustle of his last feature, Neighboring Sounds. Filho gives his latest drama—a meditative character study of the elderly Dona Clara (Sonia Braga)—ample room to gestate, and for his leading lady to shine. Braga’s performance gracefully balances the many hard truths that come with age—among them, her children who only visit when it’s convenient, her love life that never seems to take off, and the real estate company trying to buy her out of her apartment. The latter subplot is the most forced, relying heavily on making the realtors as antagonistic as possible—in contrast to how naturalistic everything else seems, this makes its inclusion feel a bit shoehorned. In the end, Clara needs to dignify her actions only to herself, choosing to live life the way she wishes. There’s a joy to this revelation, coming from a deeply human portrait of a woman who embraces who she is. It’s admirable the lengths Filho goes to protect human decency, something he believes is worth fighting for, no matter the surrounding circumstances.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 2.