Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil/France 2016, 146 minutes HD R16 nudity, explicit sexual material, offensive language.
A performance of tremendous wit, vitality and lusty defiance by Sônia Braga drives Brazilian film-maker Kleber Mendonça Filho’s remarkable second feature. A portrait of a 65-year-old woman refusing to be bullied out of her seafront apartment by developers, Aquarius is both a powerful celebration of its independent heroine and a scathing satire on institutional corruption… Retired music critic Clara (Braga) lives in the 1940s-built Aquarius apartment block in upmarket Recife.
The beach lifeguards are affectionately reverential towards local VIP ‘Dona Clara’, while a newspaper interviewer notes her old-school love of ‘physical media’ – of vinyl albums that contain a ‘message in a bottle’. But Clara’s days of happiness are under threat from developers, led by selfie-snapping Diego (Humberto Carrão), who is intent on tearing down the past and building a ‘new Aquarius’ where the old one ‘used to exist’ (‘The building exists now,’ Clara tells Diego. ‘You’re leaning on it!’).
Soon she is the only tenant left in a ghost building, prey to the developers’ covert harassment – from orgiastic parties in the apartment above to sh*t in the stairwells, bonfires in the car park and worse. Like her home, Clara is under siege from a new generation of entrepreneurial termites, lending an edge of horror to the drama, a tangible sense of creeping dread. - Mark Kermode, The Observer