The movie opens with Madelena an elderly peasant woman slowly trundling along a dis-used railway line to deliver the few loaves of bread she has baked to sell in the local store. She’s greeted by an annoyed looking Antonio the store owner who barks at her to stack the bread his way which she totally ignores as she always does. After their regular bickering routine they end up together on the bench outside drinking the coffee that he has made despite the fact she always claims it tastes bad.
We see this daily ritual at sunrise repeated several time as we very slowly realize that in this impoverished remote hillside town in Brazil the remaining 10 elderly residents and the priest all have their specific roles to play in this city lost in time where people forget to die.
Into the town drifts Rita a young photographer looking to find subject matter to shoot, and also for a place and purpose for her own life. She crashes with Madelena and converts part of her empty house into a dark room. Despite the cold reception the old woman gives her she still introduces the young stranger into town, but these are people of very few words, and it takes time for them to accept her presence in their small community. Their simple lives revolve around the communal meal they eat in silence and traipsing up to the church (very inconveniently for these old people) at the top of the hill for daily Mass.
When Rita has a moment playing loud music on her iPod, you realize that this is a town that has no modern technology and looks and behaves as it has done exactly for the past 100 years or more.
This first feature from Julia Murat a very young Brazilian film maker is achingly beautifully to look at. The pace of the story is as slow as the old town itself, and it does feel at time a little like watching (very old) paint peel of the wall. It’s a story about life and death and even though told through Madelena’s eyes, who every night writes a letter to her long deceased husband, it is far from depressing. What develops when the women finally bond is very real and extremely touching, and in the end they both find and accept (?) their destiny.
It’s the most perfect movie to watch when you are de-stressed after a relaxing massage and are in your happy place. Or it’s the movie that you should see when your massage appointment is cancelled and you need to find a way to a sense of clam serenity on your own.