Fantasia Festival 2019: The Father’s Shadow (A Sombra do Pai, 2019)

The Father’s Shadow (2019)

The Father's Shadow

Director (and writer): Gabriela Amaral Almeida

Cast: Nina Medeiros, Luciana Paes, Julio Machado, Eduardo Gomes, Dinho Lima Flor, Clara Moura, Rafael Raposo

The Father’s Shadow is a 2019 Brazilian horror thriller about a nine year old girl who experiments with sorcery to hopefully bring her family back together.

Following the debut feature of director Gabriela Amaral Almeida’s Friendly Beast (review), a movie that spirals into a lot of craziness of blood and sex, The Father’s Shadow tones down the physical crazy from her previous film, rather in this latest film hones in the mental breakdown and sombre elements especially of the father character. Dalva has lost her mother and lives with her aunt and her father. When her aunt moves away for her own life and her father has a few work issues occur, he starts falling apart and holding on further to his deceased wife and giving little care to Dalva. Because of this, Dalva starts experimenting with sorcery and trying to find the incantation that will bring her mother back and hopefully fill in the void needed to bring her family back together.

This story is slow burn and its a bit odd. Which is somewhat expected with Almeida at the helm if we use her previous film as a reference, in fact, this one feels more grounded in reality. There are some obvious nods to zombie horror films in the most literal way and inspires a lot of the actual story development especially the motivation of the little girl, Dalva (Nina Medeiros). She is the main focus of the story and she holds a lot of the attention because of the different ways she approaches sorcery, influenced by movies and her aunt as well as her best friend, who has quite the turn of events. This isn’t a wordy film, in fact a lot of the talking is from her aunt, Luciana Paes and the concern she voices. The opposite applies to her father (Julio Machado) who loses the parenting ability and has lessening concern towards of Dalva as he falls apart, its more shown through the lesser words and the isolation and the lack of care of the surroundings.

Every character in this story has their own scars. There are feelings of being replaced, unimportant and disposable whether in the family or at work. Its why Dalva becomes such a girl that feels leads the story with investment of seeing whether she succeeds in her endeavor or not. Looking at the horror elements, its more along the lines of subtle appearances of spirits and the uneasy feeling of expecting something to happen and some of the teasing still shots that make up for the subtle horror.  To be fair, the horror scenes here are done with a lot of care. It tries to break out from expectations at times and offers something a little different. At times, the horror elements do get drowned out by the drama.

The Father’s Shadow is a slow and doesn’t have a lot of dialogue. A lot of the story is told through the things that happen, the surrounding sound (or lack thereof) and how the characters react and take action. Its a good way to execute the film as it does give space for the audience link the story together themselves but at the same time, it does feel slightly lacking in pacing. Its not that there isn’t anything happening, more that the climax isn’t really quite there and then it just ends. The concept of sorcery and the cast, especially Nina Medeiros really does deliver, where it doesn’t quite hit the point is the execution.