Karim Aïnouz (director)
15 October 2021 (released)
Opening in the 1950’s (and we are stepped through the years from then on) sisters Eurídice (Carol Duarte) and Guida (Julia Stockler) Gusmão are in the forests of the Rio de Janeiro obviously very close to each other. This closeness could almost be seen as a protection against a domineering father Manuel (Antônio Fonseca). The women have ambitions to leave and broaden their horizons and experience. Euridice is a promising pianist hoping to journey to Vienna to study at the conservatory while Guida has fallen for a Greek sailor.
Neither of these plans fit in with Manuel’s narrow views of the world or his daughters. Guida eventually elopes with the sailor only to learn that the fable of a woman in every port is accurate.
Returning to Rio pregnant she is outcast by her father. Euridice in the meantime is coerced into marrying Antenor (Gregorio Duvivier) the son of an associate of the family who is not up to respecting his wife’s ambitions or the patriarchal role that is pressured on him.
However there is the sisters bond to see them through their troubles? It could have done if Manuel hadn’t lied to Guida that Eurídice had gone to Vienna. So we are left with the heart-breaking situation that they are both in the same city without them knowing.
It is a simple set up based on the novel by Martha Batalha (which I haven’t read) adapted by director Karim Aïnouz with Inés Bortagary, written for the screen by Murilo Hauser. It is a beautiful film to look at with sublime acting and directing taking the viewer through the decades with the Gusmão family and friends.
The sisters living very different lives but still with an unbreakable love. Guida writes letters (read over by her) to Euridice, whom she thinks is still in Vienna to which she never receives a reply eventually, in a poignant scene, she decides to stop.
Eurídice, in a practically loveless marriage with Antenor and their children is a professional musician who still yearns for the rarefied air of the conservatory.
Guida, a single mother hits the bottom, clawing her way back up to the extent that she even has to give up her family name and as with the letters close a chapter of her life.
The nature of the story means that it has to go back and forth between the sisters’ stories and while this could have been jarring its handled with great sensitivity by Aïnouz as he broadens the canvas to give some insight into Brazilian society through the decades.
The cast are uniformly excellent with Stockler and Duarte sublime in complex roles that demand their characters move forward but always with memories and the fantastic hope of a reunion.
Manuel, and to a lesser extent Antenor, are clear cut crass, ignorant men who have that male ego of the sole family wage earner mentality hot-wired into them. The mendacity of Manuel is profoundly disturbing; the passing of time doesn’t faze him there is no sense of that he has had any introspection on his decisions.
Through Guida the seedy life of the exploiters of the poor and the mental and physical resources asked of them are shockingly to the fore. There is a community spirit but this isn’t some rose-tinted happy poor it’s hardnosed geared towards survival. And here Aïnouz draws the chasm between the families and the fortunes that the two women though it’s left to the viewer to consider what might have been.