Review: Aquarius

An intimate siege movie where the antagonists have no idea about the will and resilience of their foe. Its lengthy run time allows us to see the determination of Clara, who has loved and lost, conquered cancer, and describes herself as both an old person and a child.

Sônia Braga is simply outstanding. A lot has been made of Isabelle Huppert in Things to Come, but Braga is untouchable and unmatched in the last 12 months of film here. She runs the gamut of expression, at once sexually playful while also feeling deeply empty; her warm hostly nature as matriarch quickly turns dominant, and her smiling engagement with those who oppose her is a mistaken sentence away from revolutionary stoicism. She is entirely vulnerable alone in her apartment block and yet has complete ownership over which she knows is rightfully hers. She, like the building itself, remains a symbol of defiance and protest in a world of corruption – a metaphor not missed by politicians in Brazil upon the film’s release.

Given how used we are to western, English-language films and their structure, Aquarius’s meandering into gossip-filled nights out dancing and discussions about sexual liberation pulls the rug out from under those of us not familiar with so much contained within a single film. They give life to a character we must rally behind, but also add layers to the metaphor – there is strength in a community in the face of powerful meddlers, and the celebration of sexual prowess both young and old acts to strictly oppose repression and control.

One of 2016’s greats.

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