Review: ‘A Hidden Life’

A painfully shy young woman tries to fit in above her social class, with dismal results, in "A Hidden Life." First pic in 17 years from "Hour of the Star" helmer Suzana Amaral covers similar thematic territory with significantly less provocative results.

A painfully shy young woman tries to fit in above her social class, with dismal results, in “A Hidden Life.” First pic in 17 years from “Hour of the Star” helmer Suzana Amaral covers similar thematic territory with significantly less provocative results. Reputation of 1964 source novel and four prizes copped by pic (including best film and actress) at Brazil’s Cine Ceara awards ensures decent business in Portuguese-language territories, with fest action and tube play more probable than theatrical engagements.

When her only surviving parent dies, wan young Biela (Sabrina Greve) is sent to live with a cousin’s family in a small provincial town. The sympathetic clan is anxious to make her comfortable, but nothing works. “She’s not all there,” speculates patriarch Conrado (Caca Amaral). A hesitant relationship doesn’t pan out — “I’m not the marrying type,” she says with no little understatement — before a tragic ending plays itself out. Any initial interest in premise is dissipated by an overly sluggish pace, and a third act dominated by her rain-soaked search for Vismundo, the dog to which she’s become obsessively attached. Tech credits are clean and crisp.

A Hidden Life

Brazil

Production

A Raiz production. (International sales: Grupo Novo, Rio de Janeiro.) Produced by Assuncao Hernandes. Directed, written by Suzana Amaral, from the novel by Autran Dourado.

Crew

Camera (color), Lauro Escorel; editor, Veronica Saenz; music, Luiz Henrique Xavier; art director, Adrian Cooper. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Latin American Cinema), Aug. 30, 2002. (Also in Moscow Film Festival.) Portuguese dialogue. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Sabrina Greve, Caca Amaral, Eliane Giardini, Eric Novinsky, Neusa Borges.
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