Published Jul 11, 2008Critics keep holding out for great movies, to the extent that its easy to overlook something merely good, such as this unassuming but gripping Brazilian drama. Though it breaks no new ground aesthetically, its so compassionate and so well drawn that you cant help but get sucked in.
Alice is a middle-aged woman who works at a beauty parlour, has a husband who drives a taxi and lives with her aged mother and three adolescent-and-above sons. She loves her family but the maleness can be a bit much and so can the sense of entitlement that comes with it. But her world changes when a childhood sweetheart chances back into her life and she considers picking up where they left off. Suddenly, other betrayals she never knew existed start to reveal themselves, including the infidelity of her husband, and the rickety support for her quiet existence is kicked out from under her.
There are no fireworks in this movie, just the gentle presentation of an amorphous multi-arc narrative, and it never rises above the merely watchable. But its supremely watchable, a movie that never lets you down and always gives you something to watch. Director Chico Teixeira has such immense respect for his confused protagonist that you cant help but feel the same. The film also makes a variety of feminist points in such an unobtrusive way that you dont feel coerced into taking a political position.
Though it wheels in an unfortunate deus ex machina at the end, its entirely credible up to that point and refreshingly satisfying when every other film is making grandiose claims to which they cant possibly live up to. (Kinosmith)