James’s review published on Letterboxd:
Like the familial epics of Edward Yang, Kleber Mendonça Filho's Aquarius is an all-encompassing, thematically expansive drama that uses a simplistic plot to explore a wide range of ideas alongside the central theme of the relationship between identity and physical space.
Memories are a cornerstone of what make us human and Clara, played magnificently by Sônia Braga, has decades of fond recollections, all taking place in the apartment she has lived in for so much of her life. A flashback to 1980 early on in the film that fades into the present day creates a genuine sense of history and attachment both in the viewer and Clara. Space is used cleverly in such a manner that the building begins to feel like a character in itself.
There is so much else going on however, the corrupt building company that are trying to force Clara out of her apartment could be viewed as a political allegory for Brazil. Many other ideas are tactfully swirling around such as aging, sexuality, parenthood, gender differences, generational and cultural shifts, isolation, the desire for connection. Clara doesn't mind MP3 players and streaming but her physical record collection means something to her, it has genuine history, personal relevance and tactile qualities that are irreplaceable.
Despite the long runtime, I was never bored, the central performance by Braga is one of such depth and strong characterisation it really felt like she had been this woman all her life.