CinemaClown’s review published on Letterboxd:
Aquarius wouldn't have made its way into my watchlist if it wasn't for Letterboxd. One amongst the highest-rated films on the site for the previous year, it's disappointing that the movie didn't leave much of an impression on me and even though Sônia Braga delivers a fantastic performance, this Brazilian-French drama as a whole is more or less underwhelming.
Aquarius tells the story of a retired music critic who is the last resident of the titular building that happens to have a rich history. The plot follows her life & a chain of events that are set in motion when she refuses to sell her apartment to the construction company which already owns the rest of the old building and intends to replace it with a new one.
Written & directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho, the film opens with a brief prologue that serves no purpose to the plot whatsoever and then narrates its tale in three sections. Plodding for the most part and indulging in moments that play a role in providing a deeper insight into its protagonist's life, the film makes for a wonderful character study but it could've been so much more.
The sequences that capture the clash between the veteran resident & the company that owns the peripheral surrounding are fascinating but whenever it delves into her own life, it becomes a bit dull. I'm sure there are plenty of political & social undertones beneath its surface but to an outsider like me, most of it felt trivial to the main plot, and the only aspect that made me sit through it was Sônia Braga's input.
A slow moving, often frustrating & mostly unappealing cinema that stays on one level throughout its overlong runtime and manages to get interesting only during the final chapter, Aquarius is finely crafted & nicely shot and paints quite a portrait of the leading character but it isn't what I thought it would be. Maybe I dived into it with wrong expectations or maybe it actually is bland. Either way, it was a chore to sit through.