Aquarius ★★★★½

The Letterboxd Era Catch Up 2: The Last Stand

I've read the odd whisper online that Sonia Braga might get a Best Actress nod at the Oscars for Aquarius. If that were to be the case then they might claw back some very small semblance of relevance and importance.

She's had a fascinating, wide-reaching and unpredictable career that makes her someone that whenever she appears in something, I immediately sit up and take notice. I had already taken notice of Aquarius anyway, what with it being the follow-up to Neighbouring Sounds, Kleber Mendonça Filho's debut.

Her presence in the lead role was a real statement of intent from the get-go from Filho. A powerful, principled actor sitting front and centre was perhaps the one thing that his debut lacked, instead opting for a sort of ensemble sharing of lead duties. Aquarius is completely the opposite. This is almost entirely Braga's film. Filho's direction is just as clever and heavily loaded with messages as Neighbouring Sounds but here he's added someone we immediately care about and respect.

It's another reflection on the Brazilian middle classes, because apparently Filho still had a hell of a lot more to say about them after saying so much in his first film! This focuses on the life and family of a breast cancer survivor who absolutely refuses to move from her home despite bully-boy tactics from a construction company that wants her to move out so they can take full control of the apartment building she lives in.

It's one of those performances by Braga where the line is so blurred between reality and fiction that you can see how much this character and movie meant to her. Indeed, the heartfelt protests launched by her, her director and some of her fellow cast members against political upheaval in Brazil and the sorts of organisations portrayed in this film suggests that this was a project very close to her heart indeed.

It drives the anger that is clearer and less shrouded in middle class foibles than in Neighbouring Sounds, working up to a climax where Braga basically tells the world that she doesn't give a shit. She survived and beat cancer, and now she's going to beat you guys as well. It's amazingly powerful, the sort of thing that could make you stand up and cheer if you weren't as self-aware as I am.

Filho swings for the fences and clears them cleanly with the outstanding message in his film, but he doesn't stop there. He also swipes at the Brazilian right, takes a potshot at organised religion, and even takes aim at the Illuminati along his way. He's clearly got a lot more to say on these subjects as well and if he presents his arguments as sublimely as he has done with his first two films, I for one can't wait to listen to some more of it.