Review: Asra

Written and directed by lead actor Caio Cortonesi, a religious and traditionalist man, defeated by an incurable degenerative disease, decides to end with his own suffering. He entrusts his son Omar (Cortonesi), with whom he has a difficult relationship, with the task of finding someone to end his pain. Starring: Humberto Pedrancini, Débora Aquino, Juliana Drummond and Pietro Barbosa.

The most striking aspect of this film is undoubtedly its visual, it has a classic artistic elegance emanating from its rich, almost Roma-esque, use of black and white. It creates quite an enveloping atmosphere, adding a texture and poignancy before it even gets to its story. Both the cinematography and editing are also by writer-director Cortonesi, and both are well done, it has a great movement and variety to its shots, as well as being captured exceptionally.

However, the difficult thing is tackling a story with such weight in 16-minutes, you can feel the air of death and the heaviness of it lingering in the air but it doesn’t quite get as far as it needs to go. It’s taking on not just death, which is already a tall order, but terminal illness, end of life choices and family struggles. It gave itself too much to do, even if you simply tried to delve into the impending death of a family member, it’s a difficult topic for a short film so trying to bring through two additional weighty topics was aiming too high. That’s not to say it doesn’t manage to bring an emotional touch and get across its point but by stretching itself too thin, it can’t hit as hard as it should.

Given that Cortonesi is operating on almost every different aspect of this film, he still manages to add a solid performance to the mix as well. Humberto Pedrancini has a wonderfully strong presence and an enthralling cadence to his voice, the majority of weight from the story is held in his performance and it almost has a theatricality to it. Débora Aquino is a great addition, she holds a complex air to her, as if there’s much more to explore of her character, giving her an intriguing edge. Juliana Drummond doesn’t get too much time to influence the story but her character does have a confident, intelligent persona.

Asra is visually superb, artistic in style with strong cinematography and editing but takes on too tough of a challenge with its story to execute it with the same elegance. It’s an admirable task to try and take on such weighty topics as death, resentment and complex family relationships but there simply isn’t the time to delve into them as deeply as was needed. The performances are solid, especially from Pedrancini, who makes a strong impression. There’s a real show of talent here but it might have been more impactful emotionally if it scaled back its story.

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 5/10

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