Directed by: João Miller Guerra & Filipa Reis
Distributed by: TBA
Written by Taylor Baker
João Miller Guerra & Filipa Reis’s latest film “Légua” is a solemn piece of observational cinema that touches on transcendentalism through its depiction of three generations of women living in a house they work in as custodial staff. They upkeep a manor in northern Portugal in exchange for room and board, eking out their existence in an increasingly desperate and beautiful countryside. The film primarily depicts the day-to-day life and habits of the women who keep the building running similar to the recent Sight & Sound poll winner “Jeanne Dielmann,” the manor is presented alternatingly as the families lifeblood and prison in such a way that one might compare the relationship of the central women and manor to that of vines deeply rooted to a trellis.
With what may otherwise be mundane moments captured with photographic ingenuity and tenderness the watering of a garden becomes a delicately timed piece of art, and the drying and smoothing of a white sheet becomes something more. “Légua” doesn’t realize something new or all that meaningful about cinema, but it does pare down its subject and form to a specificity that borders on the transcendental. Its repetitive structure is perhaps too meandering, its gaze too unfocused, and its all too brief asides too typified with purpose, it says something then that with all that not working for it “Légua” still manages to leave an exceedingly sincere impression. The divinity of service, the grace of clumsiness, and the sheer humanity of us all are universal themes for a reason, and when you depict them with such devotion in a lush countryside you’re probably bound to strike some gold.