By Roger Costa
In the opening scene, Gilda and Euridice, two inseparable sisters enjoying a summer afternoon in Rio, are separated as their individual impulses move them in different ways. They shout out for each other, desperately trying to locate, and the camera follows their echoes, disappearing from the woods and landing on their home. While the determined Euridice cannot make her fingers stop over the piano, and constantly mentions her intentions to go on and study in Vienna, the instinctive Guida is more interested in fulfilling her youth desires and hormonal advances, planning her late night escapes to meet a Greek sailor.
The sense of separation, missing and longing will permeate the entire narrative, punctuating what destiny and family decisions bring their way. Both women are dealing with different perspectives and desires, yet their mutual trust and supportive sisterly love are the center and motivation of their lives: Guida is caught up by her emotions and runs away with her boyfriend; Euridice accepts a forced marriage, and puts her piano dreams on hold.
Everything is being observed and analysed by their parents, conservative Portuguese immigrants, who play a major role in the story when Guida returns home, pregnant, and abandoned by her sailor. Kicking her out, the father insists that Euridice shouldn’t know of Guida’s return to Rio, avoiding such a “shame” for her sister.
Living different lives, separated by the circumstances, social privilege and moral standards, they try hard to reconnect and fill the void caused by their absence, but despite being at the same city, seems almost impossible to cross paths again: Euridice hires a detective and never suspects of her parents’ actions; Guida writes several letters, hoping somehow they will arrive to her sister.
Set in the 1950’s, the film captures details, reactions and motives of these sisters as they engage in their lives, struggling to acquire respect, equality and freedom, while fighting a male dominance everywhere, at home, at work, at society in general. Director Karim Aïnouz creates a fascinating, moving, heart-wrenching story about the power of love, essential family values, the role of society in determining one’s life choices, and the incredible pleasure of being a free woman.
Impressively raw and delicate at the same time, it addresses controversial issues, such as unwanted pregnancy and motherhood desperation, giving opportunity for its stars to shine in unforgettable roles. Both Carol Duarte and Julia Stockler, as Euridice and Guida respectively, give breakthrough performances in their debut, so intense and truthful, that is definitely a promising achievement. Their presence are so luminous and convincing in scene, you just can’t take your eyes away. And as a devastating force of nature and dramatization, Oscar nominee 90-year-old Fernanda Montenegro arrives in the story as an important key, taking control of everything around her, as well as the viewer’s compassion and attention, proving her unique talent and masterful skill on touching your heart so deeply like no one else. Despite the film was just disqualified to enter the Best International Feature Film at the upcoming Oscars, there’s hope for the Acting race, and all these three women should be recognized, especially Montenegro in the supporting actress field.
Winner of the Un Certain Regard Award at this year’s Cannes, Karim Aïnouz scores the most accomplished film of his career, an ambitious, seductive, stirring and amusing work of art, a passionate tale about sisterly love, its endurance and sacrifices. One of this year’s best films!
(Amazon Studios. 12/20. Film Forum NYC.)
MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!