The Brazilian waterfront city of Recife is the setting for writer-director Mendonca Filho's second feature Aquarius. The city has many decades old waterfront apartments with a poorer section at the Eastend of the beach. The area has avoided the wrecking ball of big development companies until a developer shows up at the Aquarius Apartments offering more than market value to the owners to sell.
The story opens with a prelude set in 1979 a young Clara is on the beach with her brother and future sister in-law listening to the new track from Queen Another One Bites the Dust. Their lack of concept of time makes them late for her Aunt Lucia's 70th birthday party where they also celebrate Clara victory in her battle against breast cancer. The narrative shifts forward to the present day where Clara (Sonja Braga) reflects on the events of that day while still occupying the same space with the wooden console table that evoked strong memories for her Aunt prominently positioned in the home.
Clara a retired music critic who is devotedly dedicated to her record collection and turntable is now the matriarch of her family. She goes for her regular swims at the beach across the street enjoying her independence from her three children and grand kids. The construction company continues to turn up the pressure as she is the last hold out in the building leading them to first approach her daughter Ana Paula (Maeve Jenkins)to try to persuade her to sell then allow other groups to stage events in the abandoned units.
Kleber Mendonca Filho presents the narrative at a steady pace. The battle with the construction company is civil and almost friendly at first but as Clara digs in stating that she will not leave her apartment until death. The company bears its teeth trying more invasive and extreme methods to try to get Clara to move out. The production also shows that an independent, active and sexual life can continue and even thrive past your 60th birthday. A rare event to focus a story on someone in that age range especially a female without the subject matter being on medical issues or failing health in general.
Sonja Braga is clearly the engine of this production. She is feisty, fearless, defiant, dignified and sexy in the role of Clara. She is willing to take on a large developer and her family alike while attracting the interest of men in her age group along with those half her age. Maeve Jenkins turns in a strong performance as her daughter Ana Paula. With her marriage on shaky ground she has to juggle taking care of her young daughter and work while being the only a person willing to take on her mother head on.
Aquarius is a film that stars a senior actor in a strong positive aggressive role. It also displays the lengths developers are wiling to go to force people out of their homes including some very distasteful and inconceivable methods. Sonja Braga delivers an exceptional performance that will see her name mentioned at Award time. Kleber Mendonca Filho story is timely given the current political climate in Brazil making it one that I can highly recommend.
**** Out of 4.
Aquarius | Kleber Mendonca Filho | Brazil / France | 2016 | 142 Minutes.
Tags: 1979, Apartment, Real Estate, Queen, Orgy, Termites, Church Service, Birthday party, Breast Cancer