Daniela Thomas’ Vazante is a beautiful period piece shot in glorious black-and-white, but which is also in desperate need of tighter storytelling. It’s being promoted as the story of the female protagonist without really being about her at all, not unlike last year’s The Fencer. António (Adriano Carvalho) is a slave trader in 19th-century Brazil who endures a string of bad luck, including his diamond mine running dry and the death of his wife in childbirth. He is eventually persuaded to put his slaves to work farming rather than mining, and marries his big-eyed teenage niece Beatriz (Luana Nastas) in hopes of producing an heir.
Things go from bad to worse when the pivot to farming doesn’t go as hoped, and Beatriz begins to develop a friendship with a slave close to her age (Vinicius Dos Anjos). At two hours, Vazante has an unfortunate tendency to drag. Beatriz is largely in the margins until the marriage occurs 45 minutes in, and she never really develops much as a character — beyond a tendency to gaze into the distance and commune with nature like a female character in a Terrence Malick film. Indeed, it’s one of Vazante’s many Malickian tendencies, another being that while it’s lovely, there’s no there there.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.