Music critic, cancer survivor and widowed mother of three Clara (Sonia Braga) lives in a beachside apartment bequeathed by a beloved aunt in the eastern Brazilian city of Recife. So, when a property developer tries to bully her into selling up, she refuses to budge.
Having made a mark with the thematic and stylistic audacity of his debut, Neighbouring Sounds (2012), Kleber Mendonça Filho continues to expose the fissures threatening Brazilian society in this stately study of one woman’s resistance to the march of so-called progress. Some might label this three-part story ‘slow cinema’. But Mendonça Filho uses the extended running time to allow the audience to get to know Clara (Sonia Braga) and the values inherited from free-spirited aunt Lucia (Thaia Perez) that underpin her refusal to bow to the intimidatory tactics of American-educated construction heir Diego (Humberto Carrão) and the selfish hopes of the offspring holding out for a mid-life windfall.
Despite preferring her vinyl collection to downloads, the sixtysomething Clara is open to new sounds. But she is aware of the associational power of music and her determination to protect the emotional investment she has put into her home contrasts starkly with the passive-aggressive Diego’s philistinic obsession with location, modernity and profit. However, Clara also kicks against the nepotism and corruption of Diego’s company, which seem as ingrained in the elitist millennial mindset as racial and class prejudice.
Filled with magnificent music, unsettling set-pieces, intimate moments and tiny details, this lament for the transience of existence also celebrates the consolation of memory and the need to live life to the full without making the treacherous compromises that can only lead to lingering regret and the devaluing of one’s legacy.
Wonderfully evocative of time and place, this considered assault on Brazil’s economic and ethical crises revolves around a majestic performance by Sonia Braga.