Aquarius ★★★½

Part of 30 Countries 2018. Today: Brazil!

Genuinely insane that Oscar voters didn't think Sonia Braga's performance in this was worth a nomination, but I wasn't as taken with the rest of Kleber Mendonça Filho's follow-up to Neighbouring Sounds. He has a Spike Lee-esque determination to make films which encompass everything in the world he wants to talk about, which worked in the context of Neighbouring Sounds's sociological ensemble piece but makes this character study feel dangerously overstuffed. I am not wholly convinced that a story of one woman's activism against the local council needs to take a lengthy diversion to show her hiring a gigolo? But, whatever, it's all being thrown in.

Even with this discursive structure, the two hours and twenty-six minutes of Aquarius still move along nicely. Filho's party scenes are wonderfully naturalistic and inviting, and I love the moments where he just goes for pure style - a jump-cut scene of Braga doing arm-stretching exercises was so sharply framed I actually rewound to enjoy it again. The ending, too, is terrific, and ties all the story's sprawling strands together in one vivid metaphor. It's a bit too late, but it's good.

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