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Vitalina Varela

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Portugal · 2019
2h 4m
Director Pedro Costa
Starring Vitalina Varela, Ventura, Lina Varela, Manuel Tavares Almeida
Genre Drama

Pedro Costa depicts the real story of a Cape Verdean woman named Vitalina Varela as she travels to Lisbon to reunite with her husband after two decades, only to arrive a couple days after his funeral. Vitalina then attempts to build a new life in Lisbon while living with her immense grief. A shadowy and expressive portrayal of perseverance.

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What are critics saying?


IndieWire by Eric Kohn

As Vitalina Varela proves, Costa empowers his subjects by framing them as majestic storytellers and letting their stories take charge.


The New York Times by Glenn Kenny

Vitalina Varela is socially conscious, but dreamlike, elegiac. And an inquiry, too, into the abilities and deficiencies of film as a medium to illuminate human consciousness and experience. It’s essential cinema.


The A.V. Club by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

His muse Ventura is there, too, cast as a meta character; he plays a clerygman who has lost his flock and now ministers to an abandoned church that looks suspiciously like a small movie theater. Which is about as close as Vitalina Varela comes to bluntly stating its themes: presence, absence, rekindled faith.


Slant Magazine by Jake Cole

At last, Pedro Costa appears to be more interested in how people get on with life than how they keep the company of ghosts.


Variety by Jay Weissberg

Costa’s elongation of time (made more acute since there’s rarely enough light coming from the screen to check your watch) combined with his habit of doling out a few narrative details without exploration, results in a film that distances spectators not already in his thrall.


The New Yorker by Richard Brody

Spectacular images, ideas, emotions, and performances are embedded in the lugubrious pace and tone of Pedro Costa’s modernist fusion of classic melodrama and documentary.


Movie Nation by Roger Moore

The austere beauty of Vitalina Varela is in faces of its characters, the darkness that envelops a corner of Lisbon tourists rarely see. It’s a somber, lyrical and relentlessly understated meditation on grief and a grudge.


Screen Daily by Stephen Whitty

Lit like a Rembrandt, acted like a neo-Realist classic and with all the searing social conscience of a new Dardenne brothers film, Vitalina Varela is both richly familiar and profoundly unique; if occasionally a challenge to watch.

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