Creatively muddled and dramatically clumsy, Paulo Caldas' melodrama of love and religion in rural Brazil is an ill-advised take on an interesting premise. Starting off as a mosaic drama interweaving two different characters - an ailing concert pianist (Maria Padilha) and a progressive, humanist Catholic priest (Fábio Assunção) - Mr. Caldas and his co-writers make them collide through the inspired-by-true-events story of a teenage girl raped by her own uncle and excommunicated from the church for having aborted the resulting child. Despite that alone being enough for a full-length movie, the director never moves that story out of the background and it soon becomes obvious it's merely an excuse to focus on the unlikely meeting it engenders between the pianist and the priest.

     The result is a film whose desire for a transcendent romanticism is thwarted at every level: the acting is mostly indifferent (no one really has characters to develop, only archetypes), poor scripting (the dialogue is shockingly trite), clumsy handling and editing (wasting too much time setting up characters, like the nurse fascinated by Japanese pop culture, that never really serve any purpose), all of it wrapped up in the sense that Mr. Caldas never really decided which of the stories he really wanted to tell. The only saving grace is the music - impressionist piano pieces from Satie or Debussy that signpost the romanticism this ill-advised enterprise strives for without ever reaching.

Fábio Assunção, Maria Padilha, Gabriel Braga Nunes, Fernanda Vianna, Germano Haiut, Nicolau Breyner.
     Director, Paulo Caldas; screenplay, Amin Stepple, Pedro Severien, Mr. Caldas; cinematography, Paulo Jacinto dos Reis (colour, processing by Labocine do Brasil, widescreen); art director, Karen Araújo; costume designer, Bárbara Cunha; editor, Vânia Debs; producer, Vânia Catani (Bananeira Filmes in co-production with Fado Filmes, 99 Produções Artísticas, Cena 2 Produções), Brazil/Portugal, 2011, 88 minutes.
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 5 (Lisbon), January 23rd 2012.


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