This absolutely gorgeous film is one of those epic films which attempts to tell the history of a place or country though the experiences of a family. It’s the kind of high concept we might associate with classic Hollywood. But it is not a classical film in terms of the content.
I want to stress how pretty this film is. There are numerous gorgeous, wide-angle shots and the transitions in the film are among the best I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s the kind of film where you can just get lost in the images and not really care about what is actually in the movie.
This is a very long movie – 2 hours and 46 minutes – and it tries to do a lot in that time. (As an aside, I wonder if average movie lengths have declined. I am reading a book right now which talks about some very, very long movies from the 1960s which would make this film seem short by comparison.) And it feels as though the filmmakers overshot in trying to tell 50 years of Portuguese history – or, rather, three distinct moments in Portuguese history – as opposed to just focusing on this family during the Carnation Revolution.
Because, the thing is, the part set in the 1970s feels immeasurably better than the part set in the 1990s. We felt like the two parts were almost written by different people, as the tone of each is so different. The part set in the 1970s feels far more subtle and the part in the 1990s far more melodramatic. In defense of the latter part, though, I will say it’s funnier.
And the format made it a little hard to evaluate the film because the latter section was far inferior. It let a bad taste in Jenn’s mouth and, due to the film’s length, I sometimes struggled to think about the film’s earlier, better moments while we discussed it afterward.
But that earlier part was pretty good, and so well made that I just can’t dismiss it. I wish the film was shorter. I wish it was less ambitious. I wish it ended at the dinner table or at the accident instead of when it ends. But I still think it’s worth watching. And it’s just so damn pretty.