Légua: What is that beautiful house?

English Daily #1
Légua (João Miller Guerra/Filipa Reis, Portugal, 2023), International Competition, 7-7 11:00 House of Cinema Grand Hall, 9-7 17:30 Moscow Cinema Blue Hall

Who truly owns a house or the land? The people with the necessary legal documents or the ones who sweat over it every single day of their existence? In their sophomore feature Légua, the Portuguese filmmaking duo of João Miller Guerra and Filipa Reis make a strong moral and artistic case for the latter. Never, not for a second does the audience see the owners of a beautiful old manor in Northern Portugal, basically a summer house, which middle-aged Ana and the slowly fading elderly Emília have taken care of for several decades, while the owners tend to their business in Lisbon․ There’s an undeniable hypnotic charm in seeing how the two women diligently do the chores around the house, clean the sheets, make the beds, knowing full well that no one will sleep in them.

The tenderness of every camera move and the richly muted colors of every shot convey a sense of something more than a social drama. The way in which Ana so thoughtfully makes way for the water in the garden in one of the film’s most enthralling sequence shots, where she hastily shovels dirt, helping the water clear a path across the whole area, almost makes it seem like she is instinctively watering her own roots, which even her own daughter, the young emancipated Mónica, cannot rip out, despite the sound arguments she makes for leaving this place and leaving Emília behind. But just as a replanted tree won’t necessarily grow in different soil, so is Ana, it seems, for better or worse, bound to the manor, just as any vegetation within it.

Artur Vardikyan