In Portuguese Africa in 1973, a small platoon of soldiers is stranded, prey both to an unseen guerrilla enemy and to their own doubts about the war they are waging. Twelve years on, an elderly couple, still mourning the death of their son in the African campaign, make one last visit to their surviving children, now grown up and living in Lisbon. Botelho's delicately mesmerising film interweaves these two simple stories, and achieves a contemplative serenity not unlike that of Ozu; hardly surprising or inappropriate in that the contemporary story is indeed a Portuguese update of the Japanese master's Tokyo Story. As the reunion gives rise to painful memories and barely expressed tension, the film charts the family's disappointments and losses with a dry-eyed melancholy, gently proposing a stoic resignation as a response to life's vicissitudes. Botelho never quite matches the emotional power of his mentor. Nevertheless, this is one fine film; watch it peacefully and patiently, and be moved.
Cast and crew
Leonor Pinhao, Joao Botelho
Rui Furtado Isabel de Castro Maria Cabral Fernando Heitor Cristina Hauser