85 minutes

For her first feature in eight years, director Solveig Nordlund adapts a 1994 novel from acclaimed (and difficult-to-adapt) writer António Lobo Antunes. Usually more at ease with strong book material (as per her sympathetic 2002 adaptation of J. G. Ballard's Low Flying Aircraft) than with original scripts, A Morte de Carlos Gardel is a welcome return to form for the Swedish-born director after the disappointment of 2003's A Filha.

     Taking as its central strand the coma of twenty-something drug addict Nuno, the film floats between three different timelines without ever losing its narrative thread nor the viewer in what is essentially a requiem for a broken family that never really fit together. The true heart of A Morte de Carlos Gardel lies in the way ms. Nordlund actually describes the sense of lives wasted – both Nuno's, an avowed drug addict who admits he isn't planning to do anything with his life, and his family's, always looking back to an idealised past as a refuge from a disappointing present.

     The story moves back and forth between Nuno's troubled childhood as the son of divorced parents, the earlier awkward courtship between his egotistical father Álvaro and the foreigner Cláudia, and the present where the family realises, as the son slips away in his hospital bed, how irretrievably beyond repair their relationships are. There is nothing particularly outstanding in any of the many separate elements, but it's to the writer/director's credit that the film is more than just the sum of its parts, mostly thanks to a very steady hand with rhythm and especially with the actors. In a very solid cast (with the exceptions of Elmano Sancho, too rigid as the younger Álvaro, and mr. Malvarez, whose fecklessness as the adult Nuno is more shallow than heartfelt), honours must go to the usually reliable Rui Morisson in a career-best performance as the selfish but heartbroken present-day Álvaro.

Starring Rui Morisson, Teresa Gafeira, Celia Williams, Carlos Malvarez, Miguel Mestre, Joana de Verona, Elmano Sancho, Ida Holten Worsøe, Albano Jerónimo, Maria João Pinho; and Ruy de Carvalho.
     Directed by Solveig Nordlund; produced by Luís Galvão Teles and Gonçalo Galvão Teles; screenplay by ms. Nordlund, based on the novel by António Lobo Antunes, The Death of Carlos Gardel; music by Pedro Marques; director of photography (colour), Acácio de Almeida; art director, Ana Paula Rocha; film editor, Paulo Milhomens.
     A Fado Filmes presentation/production, with financial support from the Portuguese Institute for Cinema and Audiovisual, Portuguese Ministry of Culture and Radio and Television of Portugal. (Portuguese distributor, Zon Lusomundo Audiovisuais. World sales, Fado Filmes.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 9 (Lisbon), August 10th 2011.


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