This sprawling drama about a Portuguese family combines melodrama and social realism so inventively that it practically occupies a genre of its own. Writer-director Joao Canijo grounds the movie in vivid observations of the Lisbon public housing complex where much of the action occurs, and his characterizations—developed, Mike Leigh-style, in close collaboration with the cast--have a similarly gritty authenticity. Yet the movie is also richly stylized, with old-fashioned tracking shots and compositions that allow for two conversations at once, and some narrative developments have the force of Greek tragedy. What emerges is an operatic portrayal of the working poor in which each character's struggle seems monumental. In Portuguese with subtitles.
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