The Quietude


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Quietude
"The sprawling house provides insight into Mia and Eugenia's personalities before we get to know them directly." | Photo: Venice Film Festival

Writer/director Pablo Trapero starts as he means to go on in this elevated melodrama which mingles the complexity of family relationships with the great unspoken secrets of Argentina's not-so-distant past. A sublime tracking shot carries us into the house - the Quietud of the title - and through multiple rooms, letting us drink in a location whose potency we can't yet understand, though viewers familiar with the history of the region might guess. A daughter is arriving home. She will soon be joined by another, travelling from much further away, from Paris. It's rare for the family to be all together - the sisters are aware that their mother, Esmeralda, (a superb Graciela Borges) doesn't like them equally - but this time things are different. Their father, Augusto (Isidoro Tolcachir, who is allowed one furious outburst before fading into silence), has had a stroke, and the family's future hangs in the balance.

Mia (Martina Gusman) and Eugenia (Bérénice Bejo) like each other a lot. That is, there's something between them that's very different from the usual sororal bond, expressing itself first in an intense scene in which they masturbate side by side whilst fantasising about the same man. This use of men as apparent surrogates for their real desires extends to Mia having an affair with Eugenia's husband - something perhaps less likely to cause consternation given that Eugenia has had affairs of her own. Now Eugenia is pregnant, which a prompts everyone to think about the future - a future which, unbeknownst to the sisters, is rapidly becoming more complicated.

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The sprawling house provides insight into Mia and Eugenia's personalities before we get to know them directly. Both have been raised with such abundant privilege that it has simply never occurred to them to ask where it came from, nor to countenance life without it. Eugenia is the shrewder of the two, having spent time in business. She's also the favourite, however, which has led Mia to develop a more independent streak that now comes to the fore. Central to the film is the question of whether or not the deep love between them has its origins in the secrets their father might now take to the grave - and whether or not it can survive his loss.

Borges is cast in a supporting role yet her smouldering, carefully restrained performance gradually comes to dominate, finally spilling over into a brutal confession that will end the sisters' innocence. Gusman and Bejo, meanwhile, present two quite different women who nevertheless seem to be defined by one another, like trees leaning against each other. Costumed and made up by Trapero's team, they bear a remarkable physical resemblance. There's a suggestion of twinship, even though we know that's not the case - as if they have modelled themselves on one another, seeking perfection in imitation of their desires.

Gorgeously composed and with an evocative score by Papamusic, this film is a real treat for the senses. It may fundamentally be a soap opera but it's a supremely classy one.

Reviewed on: 26 Feb 2019
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The Quietude packshot
Drama about two sisters after they are reunited following their father's stroke.

Director: Pablo Trapero

Writer: Alberto Rojas Apel, Pablo Trapero

Starring: Edgar Ramírez, Bérénice Bejo, Martina Gusman, Joaquín Furriel, Graciela Borges, Edgar Ramírez, Bérénice Bejo, Martina Gusman, Joaquín Furriel, Graciela Borges

Year: 2018

Runtime: 117 minutes

Country: Argentina, France

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