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In The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao, two sisters born in Rio de Janeiro make their way through life, each mistakenly believing the other is living out her dreams half a world away.

Canal Brasil

  • The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao
  • Directed by Karim Ainouz
  • Written by Murilo Hauser, based on the book by Martha Batalha
  • Starring Carol Duarte and Julia Stockler
  • Classification R
  • 139 minutes

rating

3 out of 4 stars

It’s easy to get lost in the textural cinematography of Brazilian director Karim Ainouz’s lush new feminist drama The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao. Interrogating the sensual tapestry of mid-century Rio de Janeiro, from its oppressive heat, almost visible on screen, to the city’s own jagged juxtaposition of urban jungle, cinematographer Hélène Louvart builds an impressive visual landscape for this plaintive story of two vivacious, determined sisters kept apart by the rigid social mores and patriarchal rule of the country in the early 1950s.

As young women, Euridice and Guida Gusmao cling to each other as they both try to carve out an identity and space for themselves in a world where they are expected to disappear into the background of their father’s and eventually husbands’ lives. But when the consequences of a tempestuous affair separate older sister Guida, played with poignant resolve by actor Julia Stockler, from her family, the two are spun through a decades-long search for each other and ultimately themselves.

Holiday movie guide: Reviews of films opening through the end of December

Through a richly layered lens of myth-building and melodrama, Ainouz manages to capture the heartbreak, solitude and resilience of women on the verge. Early on in the film, as the gravity of her situation begins to dawn on her, Guida writes to her sister that she has finally “discovered what it means to be a woman alone in this world.”

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Carol Duarte and Julia Stockler bring necessary dimension to the sisters, who could easily have fallen into caricatures.

Canal Brasil

It’s a moment of unaffected vulnerability and honesty that captures the struggle of both women as they contort themselves to find bearable ways of existing without each other, even as each believes the other to be halfway across the world, living out her dreams. And while Guida is suddenly thrust into Rio’s slums attempting to raise a child on her own and navigate the harsh realities of single motherhood in the margins, classical pianist Euridice (Carol Duarte) must grapple with a different, more benign form of structural oppression, as she finds herself slowly fading into oblivion with the domestic burdens of marriage and motherhood eclipsing her dreams of pursuing her passion.

Based on author Martha Batalha’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is a genuine portrait of the interior lives of women, with enough tension in the near-miss moments of their possible reunion to keep you captivated throughout.

The strong performances by both Stockler and Duarte bring necessary dimension to the sisters, who could easily have fallen into caricatures. They allow themselves to quietly melt into the inevitable, as their fight for each other turns into a battle to stay visible in their own lives.

Unfortunately, the suspense of whether they’ll eventually meet again doesn’t quite match the film’s deflated conclusion, and the last half-hour loses steam as Ainouz tries to offer a resolution that might bring a sense of closure to this densely woven journey.

Nonetheless, this movie, which took the top award at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, is worthy of your time when it premieres in Toronto. With The Invisible Life, Ainouz beautifully captures the complexity of womanhood, the isolation of motherhood and the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood.

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao opens Dec. 20 in Toronto.

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