The patina of picturesque poverty suffuses “Swirl,” Helvecio Marins Jr. and Clarissa Campolina’s attractively lensed debut that’s got “festival art film” written all over it. Set in a rural village in the state of Minas Gerais, the pic foregrounds local color as it tells of an elderly woman coping with the sudden loss of her husband. It’s a formula Euro film funds can’t get enough of: third world country, impoverished locale, elliptical storytelling and aestheticized crumbling walls. Visuals are unquestionably lovely, but “Swirl” feels like artistic photo-reportage in moving image form. That said, fests and streaming sites will pounce.
An impressive opening at a village dance, with the camera in the heart of the movement, testifies to the skills of d.p. Ivo Lopes Araujo. When her husband dies, Bastu (Maria Sebastiana Martins Alvaro) is looked after by her three grandkids, all close with granny but needing to get on with their lives. Gradually, Bastu clears out hubby’s things: There’s a beautiful scene of clothes floating in the river, the air pockets tenting them out before sinking. Like much of the pic, it pleases the eye but also fetishizes “the other.”