Aquarius is the name of an apartment building overlooking the beach in Recife, Brazil. Clara (Sônia Braga) is the only resident there. A beautiful woman in her mid-sixties, she loves her apartment, and try as hard as they might, the company that has bought out all the other residents cannot persuade her to take their very generous offer so they can build another high-rise like those surrounding her. But to Clara this is her home, where she loved her now deceased husband and raised her children. It is where she is planning to die, after a life well-lived. The developers suffer under the mistaken notion that they can force this old woman out. But Clara is not going!
She loves her life. Getting up and going for a swim in the morning, ignoring the shark warnings. Having her family come to visit. Hanging out with her gal pals. And her alone time in her very nice apartment listening to music. She was once a music critic and has a record collection to die for, with plenty of digital music, as well. (Fabulous soundtrack!) The steadily expanding barrage of interruptions from the developers causes her to examine her life and muse on all the great times in her apartment, which she sees as an extension of herself. The developers try all of the usual tricks – loud music, crowds of strangers in the building, even enlisting her kids, friends, and former neighbors to talk her into moving out. But eventually they go too far.
Braga is absolutely wonderful as Clara. While there are many other fine actors in the movie, Aquarius is her film. She doesn’t play a sweet old lady in retirement. She is complex – looking for human connection, yet just fine on her own. She’s lived in an aesthetically rich world, not one of wealth. She hasn’t bowed to convention. And it is her identity that is at stake. The cast of friends, family, and strangers all hold their own with her, even the scummy, handsome son of the developer who compliments her to her face while pulling his dirty tricks behind her back. It is an excellent film all around. I highly recommend it to foreign film lovers.
Interesting fact: The film could well have been the Brazilian submission to the 2017 Oscars, but one of the members on the selection committee attacked the director’s political leanings, creating a controversy that blew up on social media. Another film, Little Secret (not yet released here or there when the decision was made), was chosen. If and when it comes here, I’ll let you know if it was deserving.