Vitalina Varela takes its title from the name of its lead actress, a Cape Verdean woman who, as per usual with Costa's non-professional actors, plays a fictionalized version of herself. Vitalina first appeared in an episode in the director's previous film, Horse Money (Wavelengths 2015), wherein she recounted how her husband had left their homeland nearly 25 years ago to work in Lisbon - a separation that became permanent when she finally arrived on the continent, three days after his funeral. In Vitalina Varela, Costa refracts and expands that episode to place us firmly within his heroine's stoic point of view, capturing her extraordinary strength and resilience as she navigates the scanty physical traces her husband left behind, discovers his secret, illicit life, and encounters the other lives that darken the shadows of the Fontainhas that once was.Written by
Toronto International Film Festival
For over two hours in what might as well be catacombs, we watch humans
walk like zombies in slow motion, or staring into space unmoving, hardly saying a word, except for whispered voice overs so as not to disturb the dark.
After a 20-year separation a woman arrives to join her husband but he was
buried three days before. That's about the extent of the story. About the only action is watching people smoke for lack of anything to do.
Everyone's miserable and pining for the good old days. The priest when he used to have a full house (though he can still pay for the funeral and everyone's bills). The woman when she was young and active. We don't know who the other characters are. Finally, we get to see the light of day. But turns out it's a
flashback to when the young couple built their house.
So the only hope is to live in the past, as there is no present or future?
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