An observational portrait of a family falling apart, Teresa Villaverde’s Colo goes beyond crisis towards independence.
Miseryby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Conflating in Portuguese both notions of ‘neck’ and ‘lap’, Colo is a curious title for Teresa Villaverde’s film on the Portuguese crisis. But, suggesting comfort, responsibility and threat, it’s somehow apt for this portrait of a family falling apart through unemployment, poverty and teenage independence. Food is a recurring theme, and it’s quietly heartbreaking to see the mother skipping lunch or the father eaten an abandoned burger, or sitting in the dark with only a few oil lamps and candles when the electricity is cut off. But with glacial pacing and wide-angled shots, Colo takes its time finding its momentum. And it’s decisively anti-formalistic, refusing to guide the viewer through its eclectic montage. Finally, however, a thread emerges – of a family struggling to carry on.
The threat however isn’t so much the sharp end of economic forces so much as the effect it has on them, creating a kind of melancholic stupor from which they all seek, in one way or another, to escape. And it’s a movement that finds an echo in Colo‘s cinematography – ugly low shots replaced with beautifully framed windows and delicately falling light towards the end when Pai (João Pedro Vaz) and Marta (Alice Albergaria Borges) assert their independence. The family home abandoned, Villaverde saves the best till last, a travelling shot both towards and away from the river hut that Marta eventually settles in. Accompanied by a violin crescendo, it’s a truly cinematic moment. And while its significance remains frustratingly elusive, perhaps through its movement suggesting the fragility of the family home that can go both forwards and backwards. But for the most part however, Colo‘s static camera remains rigorously observational. Sadly unaffecting, it’s a studiously melancholic portrait of a family splintering in slow motion.
Colo is now showing at the 67th Berlin Film Festival