Touching Portrayal of Duty Amid Decay
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director(s): João Miller Guerra, Filipa Reis
Writer(s): José Filipe Costa, João Miller Guerra, Sara Morais, Filipa Reis, Letícia Simões
Cast: Carla Maciel, Fátima Soares, Vitória Nogueira da Silva, Sara Machado, Paulo Calatré, Manuel Mozos
Language: French with English subtitles
Where To Watch: premiering May 23 at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival
RAVING REVIEW: As we delve into the beautiful landscape of Portugal's northern highlands, we encounter a story as intriguing as it is immersive. LÉGUA is a captivating tale staged within the walls of an “empty” yet majestic mansion, where the lives of three women – Ana, Emília, and Mónica – intersect in ways both subtle and profound.
The journey unfolds through the eyes of Ana, a character torn between her allegiance to Emília, the mansion's guardian, and Mónica, her effervescent daughter. These three women maneuver the twists and turns of an ever-changing world; their quests and shared explorations form the soul of this narrative.
Directors Filipa Reis and João Miller Guerra craft a touching portrayal of Emília in LÉGUA. Her unwavering commitment to preserving an empty home breathes life into the narrative. As her health deteriorates, the story's pulse fades, casting a thoughtful, reflective mood over the film—an aspect likely to captivate viewers seeking more than just a base-level story.
Emília, with her iron will, maintains the mansion's pristine facade, a detail mirrored in the precision and placement of everything in the home. As the film progresses, however, her adherence to tradition is challenged, leaving room for the younger generation to reimagine the legacy.
LÉGUA savors the art of the slow burn, focusing on telling this story through the visuals more than any dialogue. Mónica's character seems to hover on the narrative fringes, with her arc lacking the depth needed to strengthen the depths of the film's story.
The directors deliver a powerful commentary on privilege and responsibility by contrasting the mansion's residents and absentee owners. As Ana and Emília toil to maintain the manor's grandeur, the owners' lack of concern hints at a disconnect rooted in luxury and neglect.
Ana becomes a figure of captivating complexity as she is pulled in multiple directions, wanting to do the best for everyone—subtleties within the narrative hint at an undercurrent of rebellion within Ana. Prospects of a better life in a new city flicker on the horizon, yet her loyalty to Emília tethers her to the mansion. This internal tug-of-war serves as the film's emotional core.
Sometimes the film feels like it’s trying too hard, losing some of the focus that grounded it in reality. Its strength is within this narrative that we can all relate to and understand the empathy and compassion of the cast.
Some of the most powerful moments in the film are when life is just happening around the characters; basic, simple, everyday tasks that may seem mundane are shown in a new light from the outside: no score, no fancy cuts, no in-depth dialogue, just pure humanity.
In essence, LÉGUA invites viewers to explore three women's lives overwhelmed by duty, tradition, and what the future holds for them. The film's unhurried pace and rich narrative layering demand patient engagement, positioning LÉGUA as a thought-provoking cinematic experience worth examining.
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[photo courtesy of THE PR FACTORY/LUXBOX]