Once Upon a Time Veronica

Shot in the same urban slum as Kleber Filho’s Neighboring Sounds, this relentlessly bleak character study (2012) offers a disheartening glimpse of contemporary Brazilian life. Recently graduated from medical school, Veronica (Hermila Guedes) works a thankless job at an underfunded, overcrowded public hospital and at home tends to her dying father (W.J. Solha). This routine leaves her little time for friends or dating, and most of her social interactions come in the form of spontaneous sexual encounters. The film opens with visceral handheld shots of a wild orgy on a sunny beach, though in keeping with Veronica’s dispirited psyche, the rest of the film plays out in diffused lighting and static camerawork. Using a voice recorder as a diary/personal therapist, she claims to be “sick of suffering,” but solace eludes her, and an arbitrarily pessimistic denouement suggests it always will. In Portuguese with subtitles.