For an introduction to the concept of Thankful for World Cinema please go here.
Once Upon a Time Veronica (2012)
How does one paint a portrait of a contemporary Brazil? How best does one illuminate the sense of utter helplessness one can feel, when faced on a daily basis with the problems others are facing both at home and in the workplace? How can one find any peace, if not by going from psychiatrist at public hospital and into private practice?
Once Upon a Time Veronica is not the only Brazilian film of recent vintage to tackle some of these questions, at least in part if not in whole. Neighboring Sounds dealt with a species of urban malaise (in the same city) not completely dissimilar from the kind illustrated in this film – and shares a cast member in common with this film (WJ Solha).
This film deals well in dichotomy, if not in an overall portrait. It hinges on the performance of the eponymous Veronica (Hermila Guedes) and does much of its soul-searching as she talks into her tape recorder. As the film ends she makes her last entry into the recorder, not that she as a person is complete, or a finished product (for who ever is?), but she’s ready to let that crutch go and accept herself.
The self-examination is a mean to an end for the character as much as it’s a MacGuffin, but is the search of an interesting person enough to hang a story upon when the narrative framework is uninteresting? It’s not quite. The investigation, even bereft of concrete answers, is usually worth it. Even if a character is deemed merely interesting.
Perhaps a lot of the issue this film faces is that its protagonist is laid bare and not commented upon. Another part of the issue is that there isn’t a great deal of externalization of her conflict, it’s a very internal debate with few decisions made. When a character is treated as such then they are open to interpretation and reactions to said character can be varied.
There are technical aspects, as well as performance aspects of this film that are admirable but it all comes down to the narrative. It’s one I saw as treading far too much water and my view on some of her decisions is colored by sections of the storytelling I found to be lacking. My take on her and the film may have been different if things were presented differently. As it stands, I find this intimate portrait as un-compelling as her conclusion of her introspective thesis.