Kleber Mendonca Filho's Aquarius is an introspective character study of Clara, a 65 year old widow and retired music critic, who lives in Aquarius, a quaint two-story building, located in the upper-class, seaside town in Recife, Brazil. Aquarius has seen better days, being built back in the 1940s, but while all the neighboring apartments have been vacated, Clara remains, wishing to live out her life in the apartment which she was born and raised. With all the neighboring apartments having already been acquired by a business company that has plans for the plot of land, a quiet battle begins to unfold between Clara and the management company, a struggle which triggers Clara to reflect on her life, past and present, as she questions what her immediate future may hold. Kleber Mednonca Filho's Aquarius is an intricate, intelligent study of a strong woman in Clara, a character who has lived a full life from the perspective of many, having both succeeded in a career that saw her tour the world doing something she loved, while also being lucky enough to have raised a family herself, one that has yielded healthy grandchildren which she can be proud of. Aquarius is meditative experience, a film that finds a woman in Clara in a state of reflection, concerned about the future of her home, merely a piece of property sure, but one thats halls are drenched in memories both good and bad from Clara's long, lived life. Aquarius stands out so much as a film due to just how refreshing of a characterization it presents with Clara, an older woman who is strong yet fragile. This feeling of time passing one by is met by a strong-willed character in Clara, with Aquarius fully capable of capturing both elements wonderfully, delivering a potent portrait of an older woman who has not given up on experiencing all of which life has to offer. There is a quiet sense of pressure throughout the film from the younger new generation which makes Aquarius so compelling, whether it be from Diego, the young, head-strong real estate developer, or Clara's own children, some of which encourage her to take the buy-out offer, the film evokes a sense of quiet weight throughout, one of an older generation feeling pressure from the younger generation to conform or get out of the way, so they can have their time in the spotlight. While her siblings and children are a part of Clara's life, much of Aquarius regulates them to the background outside of a few scenes, reminding the viewer how much of Clara's time is spent alone at this stage of her life, where she is alotted so much time for reflection and meditation. While the driving force behind the narrative of Aquarius is focused on her impending battle with the land developers, this chilling threat to her home and memories is regulated more to the background throughout the film, a thorn in Clara's side, which only escalates when the civility between the businessman and Clara is dropped towards the end of the film. The greed of the land developers, led by Diego, a young and hungry businessman, is experienced yet often regulated to the background of the story, always lurking yet never overtaking this powerful and intricate characterization of Clara, a strong, loving woman who is confronted with the weight and uncertainty centered around the notion that she could eventually lose her home. Aquarius is a film that attempts to combat this notion of the older generation being passive with its characterization of Clara, a woman who may be old physically but still young, strong, and proud at heart, willing to fight for her past while she attempts to contemplate her future. Through showcasing Clara's past, all she's been through and the life she has lived, Aquarius touches on why Clara's present is so lively and future is so critical, exhibiting how she has been shaped by past tragedy and so willing to fight for her home and those which she loves. This sense of uncertainty about her future weighs heavily on Clara throughout the film but it never consumes her either, with Filho's interjecting a subtle amount of surrealistic moments into the film in an effort to evoke this character's sense of quiet fear that distracts but never deflects from showcasing a woman in Clara who is very much alive, living a vibrant existence even in her later years. Filho's direction as a whole is potent but nuanced throughout, a filmmaker whose visual design is meticulous in execution, using an array of assured camera movements, whether slow pans or zooms, to draw the viewer's attention to the specific details of a sequence. Featuring a narrative centered around an older character in a state of reflection, Kleber Mendonca Filho's Aquarius is a potent portrait about life itself, showcasing a woman in Clara whose past itself has made her present so lively and her future so vital.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.