Starring Nina Medeiros, Julio Machado, Luciana Paes
Written by Gabriela Amaral Almeida
Directed by Gabriela Amaral Almeida
As the Real Queen of Horror, I have seen many horror films. My dialogues about them continue from day to night, covering my tours through the gore, mystery, suspense, comedy, and tone of these films. However, rarely do I talk about the spirit of a horror film.
The Father’s Shadow is directed and written by Gabriela Amaral. It stands as a story that can be told without a camera, one that can bring listeners sorrow through a simple description of the young girl’s struggles. So, when Nina Medeiros brings the character to life on screen, and cinematographer Barbara Alvarez (The Second Mother, Whisky) crafts each frame into exquisite paintings of desolation, this story leaves all logical planes and enters a spiritual one.
Dalva (Nina Medeiros) is a child. Her mother is dead. Her father works all day. And her aunt wants to marry a disloyal man. Dalva wants her mother to come back. Her father does as well. But unlike Dalva, he knows that death is final. No childlike fantasies, and certainly no witchcraft, will change this truth. In fact, he has allowed his understanding to take his joy, energy, and any ambition to grow his relationship with his daughter. He enters his unceasing workdays lifeless, ignorant and even repulsed as his adolescent daughter struggles her way into adulthood. She cleans the laundry, makes meals from scraps, and practices the witchcraft that proposes to protect her father, and maybe grant a dream from beyond their realm.
Oftentimes, a thick layer of reality pushes a horror film deeper into horror. Life happens to us. We lose a job. We lose a loved one. Then, we are forced to figure out the next day. In The Father’s Shadow, Dalva’s father Jorge (Julio Machado) resorts to little talk and keeping his head low after his wife’s remains are found. He stays a worker, expecting everything at home will be as his wife once had it. But when foreman Nunes fires his friend for cost cutting purposes, his sister moves in with her unfaithful boyfriend, and his daughter reveals that the refrigerator is empty, the reality of his wife’s passing comes at as yells and tears.
Dalva handles it differently. Though food decreases and chores and loneliness increase, Dalva believes in her witchcraft to get what she desires. But unanswered prayers bring anguish, especially when family and friends leave faster than they come.
Unfortunately, I have never experienced one of director Amaral’s stories before, but I consider myself blessed for now knowing this woman’s gift. I will be watching her work for years to come. I suggest you do the same, starting with The Father’s Shadow.
Although I love it for paying homage to classics like The Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Pet Sematary (1989), I believe future filmmakers will be paying homage to The Father’s Shadow. Simultaneously, it takes horror in both a classic and new direction, never losing the discomfort while maintaining the drama and childish innocence to the very end.