Adrift in new Brazilian cinema

From the idyllic beaches of Buzios comes another ripple of new Brazilian cinema, this time in the form of director Heitor Dhalia’s latest film, AdriftIn his previous films, Nina (2004) and Drained (2006) Dhalia turned his camera to the claustrophobic maze of Sao Paulo – the crowded and messy metropolis reflected in the characters and their dilemmas. The change of scenery is one of the reasons why Adrift feels so different from its predecessors, leaving the neurotic concrete jungle behind and enjoying a family holiday by the seaside.

French actor Vincent Cassel (from Irreversible, Mesrine and the upcoming Black Swan) plays Mathias, a famous writer and the caring father of three kids, facing the break down of his marriage with Clarice, brilliantly portrait by Debora Bloch. Cassel may be the household name but the focus is ultimately on the newcomer Laura Neiva, playing the teenage daughter Felipa. And it’s her suspicion that her father might be having an affair with an American woman (Camille Belle) that initiates a loss of innocence and sets the plot in motion.

Adrift looks absolutely amazing onscreen – cinematographer Ricardo Della Rosa uses a limited colour palette and wisely captures the sun and sensuality of the seaside, creating the feeling that we are looking at Polaroids of a distant summer holiday. All milestones one would expect from a coming-of-age story are there: the first kiss; the sight of death; the sexual awakening; the clash of generations. If Adrift struggles in one point it is that it just might not feel all that new – we have seen this story being told before – but Dhalia finds a way to approach such classic themes with a fresh cinematic eye, playing with the audience’s expectations. The family drama never explodes, it burns slowly with the actors delivering precise and emotionally honest performances, and the chemistry between Neiva and Cassel is palpable.

The choice of the location, as in Dhalia’s previous works, plays a major part in the story. We follow Felipa whist she explores Buzios, each step leading further away from what she knew as familiar, and with each new discovery a new layer is added to the character, making the transition from young girl to woman yet more believable and touching. Dhalia is a gifted storyteller on the verge of breaking in the international scene and Adrift is a beautifully crafted welcome card.

By Fidel Madeira

Watch the trailer of Adrift

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