Written by Caballero Oscuro
Alice’s House presents a slice-of-life tale centering on a middle class family in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Alice is a 40-something manicurist in a beauty salon, and lives in a modest apartment shared with her husband, her three grown sons, and her mother. Although the film shares the daily struggles of all of the family members, the principal story is about Alice’s romantic life, or lack thereof.
Alice has been married to her husband Lindomar for 20 years, and at this stage of their lives he barely pays her any passing interest. Instead, he saves his passion for dalliances with neighborhood tramps, the younger the better, and makes no effort to hide the evidence of his infidelities. He’s far from a catch, but he’s seemingly still able to get outside satisfaction whenever his heart desires. His affairs are so blatant that they’re even discovered by his nearly blind mother-in-law, the stoic Dona Jacira, usually by his careless retention of topless photo booth pictures left in his pants for washing.
Alice is resigned to her fate, both in her loveless marriage and her dead-end career, but she soldiers on every day to support her family and her standing in the community. When she’s presented with the opportunity for her own infidelity with a childhood boyfriend, she begins to dream of a different life for herself while concurrently facing the demons of her existing obligations.
As Alice, Carla Ribas contributes a riveting performance that fully drives home the desperation of her mundane situation as well as her simmering hope for change. She’s a bundle of emotions but always a rock for her family, making for some trying times that yield fantastic dramatic results. Berta Zemel also shines in her role of Alice’s mother, getting great mileage out of her role as the silent observer to the family drama as well as a sympathetic figure cursed with failing eyesight.
Writer/director Chico Teixeira comes from a documentary background, which clearly colors his first narrative feature and gives it an enhanced sense of realism. Major plot points are just thrown out to the audience nonchalantly rather than dwelled upon, closely mirroring how they would occur in real life. There’s little attempt to frame his subjects in anything approaching dramatic lighting or staging, with everything just feeling lived in and ultra-realistic.
Alice’s House opens in New York and five California locations on January 25th before moving on to additional cities in the coming weeks. For more information, visit the film’s website.