The financial challenges of keeping a family together take a dark, twisted and blackly comic turn in Carolina Markowicz’s superb domestic thriller.
Irene (the excellent Maeve Jinkings) lives in rural Brazil with her husband Jairo (Rômulo Braga) and nine-year-old son Jean (Jean de Almeida Costa). Also in their house is Firmino (Benedito Alves), Jean’s grandfather, who has been incapacitated by a severe stroke and shares the young boy’s room. For the most part, Jairo is either working or spending his earnings on booze. Irene receives some help from a nurse, who replenishes Firmino’s oxygen supply. But one day, a new nurse arrives. Juracy (Aline Marta Maia) seems less concerned with the old man than getting to know Irene and before long she makes an offer: dispose of Firmino and replace him with a criminal who has faked his own death and needs a place to hide out. Moral quandaries aside, the offer would alleviate the family’s economic woes, but the Faustian pact becomes increasingly complex as Miguel (César Bordón) ingratiates himself into the family in the strangest ways.
Drawing impressive performances from professional and non-professional actors alike, Markowicz’s film, which she also wrote, finds the perfect balance between suspense and darkly humorous situations. Each member of the family finds themselves enmeshed in Miguel’s various ventures, his combination of menace and charm luring them into increasingly uncharacteristic behaviour. But Markowicz ensures the action remains credible, which only accentuates the sense of unease. Nowhere is this more evident than in the relationship between the drug kingpin and young Jean, who relishes the opportunities Miguel offers him.