James is entranced by this deeply poetic and philosophical film about post break-up depression and abandonment.
Middle-aged English literature professor Julia (Ana Paula Arósio) has just been left by her long term partner. What follows is a deep depression that has robbed her of all hope and feeling leaving nothing but despair and emptiness. As she slowly becomes more and more disconnected from the world around her, close gay friend Hugo (Murilo Rosa) steps in to try and reverse her suffering. But can a change of scenery and the support of friends really bring joy back into Julia’s life, especially when those trying to help her have problems of their own?
So Hard to Forget is not the easiest of films to get into. Right from the very beginning it sets itself out as a near philosophical essay on the nature of loneliness and abandonment. Constant concentration to stay connected with what’s going on as well as a countenance to suffer the intense melancholy is an absolute requirement. But if you’re able to settle in comfortably enough the film it opens up to be something incredibly surprising and well executed.
Most of the time is spent taking the viewer through nuances of her emotional journey with articulate flair and poetry. Anyone who has had the misfortune to suffer any kind of heartbreak, although not reaching the extremes played out on screen, will be persuaded by the plot into nods of agreement or small revelations about their own experiences.
But what’s so fascinating is Julia as a character, who is as engrossing as they come. Whilst she comes across as vulnerable and deep, she is also at times infuriating and obnoxious which adds complexity and conviction to her persona. Arósio brings a steady and constant steely melodrama to Julia’s self suffering, but manages to make the slow venture outside of her maudlin (un)comfort zone an incredibly rewarding performance to witness. As a character she is also expertly juxtaposed by the supporting cast; the sassy and carefree enigmatic artist Helena (Arieta Correia) provides a wonderful polar challenge to Julia’s grey demeanour. Also Hugo’s flamboyant, caring, yet ultimately long suffering and controlling manner provides wonderful relief as well as coaxing out some surprising home truths.
The best thing about this is that the entire film embodies a genuine sense of adventure. Besides some food for deep thought, there are many moments of the unexpected and eye-opening that gives the film a real edge. Director Malu De Martino also does well to make the near two hours as pacey and tight as possible, as well as playing with colour, light, and atmosphere incredibly well to cement the pathos and feeling behind the narrative.
It’s just a shame that such a film really requires a lot of effort and energy to enjoy, and those who are more comfortable with something more frivolous and obvious should definitely avoid this. But otherwise So Hard to Forget is an entrancing and heartfelt film of intense intellect, and is the sort of film that art house was made for.
So Hard to Forget is available to buy from Amazon UK.
Featured Image: Ana Paula Arósio as Julia. Photograph: Courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures.