Published Sep 23, 2012With attention to textures, sounds, grains and even the flow and feel of skin, Marcelo Gomes's intimately rendered exploration of a successful young woman coping with existential ennui plays out with little plot, focusing instead on character journey.
Once Upon a Time was I, Veronica has the central nascent doctor — the titular Veronica (Hermila Guedes) — turning to tape recorders for confessions and a variety of strangers for external pleasure while noting an inability to feel or care about anything in the world other than her sick father.
Told through a series of experiences during her first year as a doctor, dealing with patients that either won't take her seriously or describe vague headache symptoms, this moderate disappointment in achieving her goals is juxtaposed with romantic indifference. Unable to feel anything for the men she sleeps with, she chooses one to keep around knowing the inevitability of coupling once she is left without a father to care for on the home front.
But this very vivid Brazilian film isn't about finding romance and learning to experience life. Veronica responds sarcastically to assertions of love, stringing her partners along and even passing out on one, indifferent to his feelings or experience. Her tape recordings reiterate her sense of displacement and apathy, suggesting an inescapable cage of her building.
Whether this highly capable and intelligent young woman finds her place in the world, or in herself, is the ultimate journey we're taken on. And since this is a story of personal revelation, the traditional external signifiers are non-existent, making this a work of internal reflection as visualised by Gomes's slow and detailed examination of her daily life and inner-voice.
Highly tactile and experiential, this slow-burning character piece speaks volumes about the universal sense of displacement we feel when expectations don't match reality. (Urban Factory)