Review: Aquarius

Sonia Braga in Aquarius

Aquarius stars Sonia Braga in a story about a Brazilian woman who refuses to move out of her home. It’s in a beachfront location on Boa Viagem Avenue, Recife. Sonia Braga’s performance is stunning – I would even say magnificent – in Aquarius.

At 2 hours and 30 minutes, Aquarius tells more story than we really need. The story is very simple. It’s about Clara (Braga) herself, her life and loves, The drama over her living space is just the wrapping.

It begins 30 years ago when Clara recently survived breast cancer. She has a young family and a career as a music critic. Her Aunt is having a birthday in the apartment that later becomes the point of contention.

Sonia Braga in Aquarius

Jump ahead 30 years. Clara is now a retired widow with grandchildren. Everyone else in the Aquarius building has sold out to the company that wants to demolish the building and put up high rise apartments. Clara refuses.

We learn quite a lot about Clara in this too-long film. She’s regal, quiet spoken most of the time, and family oriented. Her deep love of music colors everything about her life. She’s not perfect – far from it. She’s human. We see her with friends and family, smoking pot, dancing alone in her apartment, having sex with a stranger. We see her mastectomy scar. We see her taking naps. We see her fussing with the glorious mane of hair she’s been growing ever since cancer treatments took it away from her. We see her swimming in the shark infested ocean with a life guard keeping nervous watch over her.

Her home is beautiful. Open to the sea air and just across from the beach. The walls are lined with books and music. It’s a lovely, perfect space. I wouldn’t want to move either.

She finds her own quiet ways to fight back against the aggressions of the building company. People like her, respond well to her. Even people she barely knows. She gets help in her struggle from unexpected places.

A few key characters include Maeve Jinkings as Clara’s daughter. Buda Lira plays her brother. Zoraide Coleto plays her maid, Ladjane. The bad guys are represented by Diego (Humberto Carrão) who is the grandson of the man who owns the building company. Clara’s friend and lawyer Cleide (Carla Ribas) is not just a steadfast friend, but a great help in fighting back against the people who want to throw Clara out of her home. Clara’s is a big, joyous life and there is a large cast around her.

There’s no shyness around sex in this film. You see everything – things you don’t see in American movies.

Aquarius is in Portuguese with a smattering of English in some of the music. Kleber Mendonça Filho wrote and directed. The 2016 film is available on Amazon Video and Netflix.

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