Everyone is elderly and every day is the same in the tiny, leafy town of Jotuomba, Brazil. Madalena (Sonia Guedes) wakes before sunrise to make bread, which she carries along the railroad tracks to the shop of Antonio (Luiz Serra). There, they bicker and drink coffee before the locals gather for mass and a communal meal. But those routines are disrupted when young Rita (Lisa Fávero) shows up at Madalena’s door. With her homemade pinhole camera and boundary-pushing curiosity, Rita slowly endears herself to the town, imbuing it with new life while it subtly claims her own.
Brazilian filmmaker Júlia Murat’s first narrative feature is a mesmerizing, slow-build marvel. Through long takes, meticulously composed landscapes and purposefully revised repetitions, Murat transports us to a remote community that feels simultaneously stuck and liberated. Rita loves Jotuomba for its exotic decay—her photos capture places and people at their most ghostly—but the citizens view her as a privileged witness to what remains. Death may be near, but life goes on. As the widowed Madalena, Guedes transforms from a living monument to melancholy to an accommodating, irreverent matron, her marvelously wrinkled mask suddenly animated. By the time she disrobes for Rita’s camera, finally fearless before whatever awaits her, our own objectification has become awe, while Murat’s mannered art-house object has become a devastating lamentation of mortality. “Why don’t you die?” Madalena asks Antonio. “Because I’m not unhappy enough,” is his feeble, flawless reply.
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