the invisible life or euridice Gusmao

We first meet Euridice of the title, accompanied by her loving younger sister Guida, wandering the lushly verdant coastal cliffs beneath the distant, benign gaze of Cristo Redentor. We could be nowhere else but Rio de Janeiro. The famous statue, perched high on Corcovado granite peak, is both an evocative emblem of city and a hint towards the forces - conservative, patriarchal, religious - which will shape the lives these young women so dramatically.

Euridice, a talented pianist, dreams of studying in Europe. Guida, vivacious and impulsive, lusts for passion and adventure. But this is 1950s Brazil, and both women will be forced to confront the strictures and repressions of a society still rooted in patriarchy and prejudice.

When Guida runs away to follow her heart, romance inevitably bumps up against reality and she returns alone, unmarried and heavily pregnant and naively, perhaps, unprepared for her father’s mortified and wrathful response.

This beautifully photographed film follows the two sisters as they take their separate paths, each misled by their parents into believing the other lives a happy life elsewhere. The reality is starkly different, with one negotiating the struggles of daily survival, whilst the other lives a comfortable but unfulfilled life, her personal and artistic expression stifled by the weight of social and family expectation.

What could be an archetypal downbeat story about patriarchy and loss is lifted by a warmth and a distinct lack of self-pity amongst the female characters, who understand that the only way is forward and who both, in different ways, manage to carve out a space to be and to survive.

This was Brazil’s 2020 entry to the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards and it sumptuously evokes the Rio de Janeiro of a bygone era - mid-century, mid-sized, almost bucolic. Many of the external scenes were clearly filmed in the flower-filled cobbled streets of Santa Teresa, Rio’s charming, colonial hillside neighbourhood, today a fashionable favourite with artists and tourists.

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao offers a gritty but ultimately fulfilling and deeply moving story, one of loss but also of personal survival and the persistence of love. It’s a great watch before a Brazil holiday to really get a feel for the beautiful country.


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