Review: Madalena

Written and directed by Madiano Marcheti, co-written by Tiago Coelho and Thiago Gallego, the death of a trans woman links three lives in Brazil’s agrarian heartland. Starring: Joana Castro, Mariane Cáceres, Rafael de Bona, Lua Guerreiro, Natália Mazarim, Chloe Milan, Lucas Miralles, Nadja Mitidiero, Antonio Salvador and Pâmella Yulle.

There’s a poignant and moving statement made by this film and its writers have chosen an extremely clever way to make it, by never outwardly acknowledging it. It taps into the fact that violence against trans people is so present in their society by showing how its characters are no longer surprised or shocked by it. It’s a horrific state of affairs that this murder, while a terrible loss for the friends of the victim, is almost treated like an everyday occurrence but it’s also an incredibly observant choice from these filmmakers.

The melancholy and disillusionment that go along with these issues lingers in the air of this story, but interestingly what takes the forefront is a very natural and charming drama. The writing flows smoothly, it has a difficult to define quality that keeps you plugged in, even if you’re not quite sure why. It’s almost as if there’s an ironically peaceful movement to it, an unusual feat against an arguably dark story.

Part of that achievement is the style of direction and the location choices, Madiano Marcheti uses a great deal of natural imagery in Madalena. It then works to build an impressive atmosphere by being hugely contrasted with modern touches. It manages to tap into a varied atmosphere, capturing its darkness but also themes of friendship, kindness and daily strife. It has the same quality as its writing, it has an unusually captivating quality, it holds your attention exceptionally well. It has both an everyday and a stylish feel which is well balanced.

It’s a true ensemble effort here, each performance is convincing and has different qualities to add. There’s plenty of different examples of vulnerability and fear, but the portrayal which hits the most relatable and compelling note is Pâmella Yulle. She becomes almost an epicentre of the message and emotion of the film, it’s understated but she easily taps into the love, loss, fears and desires which the entire feature holds.

Madalena is surprisingly captivating and moves with a very satisfying natural air. The subtle way in which it deals with its story may be overly understated for some but it’s relatable and down to earth. It does more justice to portraying the significance of violence against trans people by showing the terrible indifference resulting from its ever-presence in society, than if it tried to create melodrama and overt grit. It’s well directed to match its visual and story extremely well and create something that you can’t help but be drawn into.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Premiered on Bohemia Euphoria

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