Eye For Film >> Movies >> Elis (2016) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
One of the best loved singers in the history of Brazil, Elis Regina lived for just 36 years but had a 25 year career that saw her celebrated around the world. Her story has natural cinematic appeal and her fans are bound to turn out for this biopic. How effective it will be at drawing in and satisfying people unfamiliarwith her work remains to be seen, but at the very least it offers them the chance to discover some beautiful new music.
The film barely mentions Elis' time as a child star, instead plunging viewers into her late teenage years, when she was singing in bars to make ends meet but dreaming of much bigger things. All else aside, this enables it to stick with a single actress, Andréia Horta, who conjures up a remarkable physical resemblance to the singer in her later years. She struggles a little with the earlier part of the story, perhaps because Elis, whilst immediately reognised for her voice, initially struggled with a lack of stage presence, something which leaves an actress without much to work with. As Elis grows in confidence, Horta grows into the role.
Director Hugo Prata works hard to capture the mood of Brazil in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties, when social values were becoming increasingly liberal but the right wing military government was going in the opposite direction. It was a dangerous time for artists, and though the film doesn't overplay it, a single chilling scene in which an interrogator makes reference to Elis' infant son illustrates the kind of pressure many found themselves under. It was also, despite this, a highly creeative period, and we see Elis warned that she must keep up with the times when she's barely into her twenties. Prata illuminates his shadowy club scenes with shades of copper and teal which also appear in the landscape and in the way Horta is clothed or lit at key moments.
In the latter half of the film, Horta presents us with a fiery character, moving between relationships, producing children, growing increasingly frustrated with the music business and the fickleness of a public all too re4ady to believe she's selling out. Writers Luiz Bolognesi and Vera Egito don't allow their heroine too much slack, and the harsh criticism she receives from those who consider her moodiness self-indulgent and egotistical helps to keep events in proportion. It also, however, calls into question the way that society treats its creative talents; whether wanting Elis to be exuberant and happy or achingly soulful, people seem to pay little heed to the impact of all this emotion, and there's a sense that they may simply not have recognised the toll it was taking.
Although Elis herself gets plenty of room to develop as a character, some of the major figures in her life are too thinly drawn, as if the writers weren't quite as comfortable interpreting people wo were still alive. This makes the film feel unbalanced in places. Overall, though, it's an interesting take on the public and personal lives of a national icon.Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2018