Country: Portugal / Brazil
Movie Review: João Botelho’s modern and sympathetic adaptation of the Portuguese naturalist novel from 1888, “The Maias: Episodes of Romantic Life” by Eça de Queirós, shows some poetic humor but moves away from the artistic freedom exhibited in “Disquiet”, which celebrates the controversial poet Fernando Pessoa. The casting was one of the good aspects of the film, together with the curious option of manipulating settings to illustrate outdoor landscapes and surroundings. These settings even gave some exquisite, picturesque taste to the well-composed photography by João Ribeiro, but “Os Maias” evinces some issues that are difficult to ignore. The biggest of them is that the passion of the aristocrat Carlos da Maia for Maria Eduarda (the fulcral point of the plot) was less impressive than the friendship with his libertine friend João da Ega, the character that keeps us watching the film with interest. The crucial romance never attained high temperatures to make us sweat, remaining stuck in the formalism of the scenes and polished dialogues that almost ruined everything, especially in its first part. Moving forward in an uneven manner, the story turns out to be watchable due to the effort of the actors and some inspired visual ‘reconstitutions’. Botelho’s best film so far is minimally competent, but leaves the sensation that it could have been shortened, less focused in trivial details of the period, and more concentrated in extracting the emotions needed from the plot. The film was shot in 50 days with a budget of 1,3 million Euros, and clearly missed the opportunity of becoming a more fulfilling reference in the Portuguese cinema scene.