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Review by Kate Wingfield
Rating: (2 out of 5)
Monday, 10/17/2011, 7:00 PM
Feature presentation, $12 at West End Cinema
Portugese with English subtitles
MALU DE MARTINO’S So Hard to Forget may need a warning label since anyone recently freed from the exquisite torture of nursing a dumped roommate will unlikely be able to stomach the contents. Admittedly a nicely shot, well-paced, “small” Brazilian film, So Hard certainly tries hard but unless you can relate to its beautiful but extraordinarily dour, endlessly self-centered and unenlightened dumpee, Julianna, you’ll be wondering how hard it would be to crawl on yours knees to the exit.
Based on the novel of Myriam Campello, the film glues itself to Julianna, a professor of literature (we know this because she mentions names like Virginia Woolf and Emily Bronte amid intellectual gobbledy-gook) in the immediate aftermath of a ten-year relationship with a woman called Antonia, whom we never meet. Interspersed with a lugubriously-delivered voice-over, Julianna grimaces her way though the initial shock and awe to reluctant recovery by way of a long intervening phase – really the entire length of the film – in which she is exceedingly irritable and morose to everyone around her.
In fact, minus a reflective scene or two – in particular Julianna’s realization of physical loss while in the shower – the film is really little more than a series of vignettes in which the grumpy professor entices people into noticing that she is depressed and then nails them for caring. Although she invests herself in the character, Ana Paula Arosio can bring nothing to this one-dimensional woman other than her mesmerizingly beautiful cat’s eyes.
Top of the masochist list is Julianna’s gay friend Hugo who persuades her early-on into joining him in a house-share by the coast. An impossibly cheerful character, played with puppy-like goodwill by Murilo Rosa, Hugo is barely allowed to mourn his own profound losses before Julianna is dragging it all back to her interminable suffering which, for some inexplicable reason, they have tacitly agreed trumps all. Even Helena (a cool as a cucumber Arieta Correia), Julianna’s eventual new love interest, along with being beautiful and emotionally-available, also happens to be the type who can’t get enough of prickly, emotionally distant non-givers. Had enough yet?
Bottom line: take away the Brazilian flavor, intellectual pretentions and pretty women and this is nothing more than a shallow portrait of common garden variety obnoxiousness.