Like Elle, Aquarius is a long, novelistic film that confounds easy appraisal. It’s also about a well-off woman in late middle age who withstands the unwanted attentions of a younger man. But whereas Elle whips you along with its violent surprises, Aquarius asks you to walk the long walk of a more typical dramatic narrative.
This means that, while Aquarius is less of an immediate, bewildering pleasure, it’s more convincing and rewarding as a portrait of strength.
Doña Clara (Sônia Braga) is an ex-music writer and cancer survivor living in Recife. She spends her retirement drinking wine, listening to old records and swimming in the sea over the road from her apartment building (named Aquarius).
Her contentment is disrupted by developers who want her to sell her flat. The company’s representative is a handsome upstart called Diego, at first confident that he can coax Doña Clara out of her home with shallow smarm. When that proves ineffective, his approach becomes brattish and his tactics nasty. But he has underestimated Doña Clara.
Apart from the incongruity of the hero being a woman, there’s something of late Philip Roth about the portrait of Clara (and Aquarius is first and foremost a portrait). Trying to reconcile her urges and pleasures with the inconveniences of getting older and the ambitions of the young, she is a dignified presence, balancing controlled indignation with rueful humour and bursts of passion (and lust).
Doña Clara's story is slow; not quite episodic, but life-paced, life-structured, with even the most dramatic moments happening in fragmented form and at uneven pace. It’s not a difficult film, but it does require engagement, even commitment. But Doña Clara is a rich and convincing character, and it’s worth getting to know her.
|What||Aquarius film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
24 Mar 17 – 24 May 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|