The film opens with a shot of Blanchett in bathrobe as she attends to her old, ailing father (Ronaldo Brandão), while safely downstairs her partner (who has no name but is referred to as “the husband” on-screen) hovers outside, contemplating a decision.
The young woman — whose father, we learn from one of the film’s many background cards, has recently died, as though it’s a death sentence that will have to be faced — walks around the living room and its piano, which she plays with closed eyes. Her every move radiates good will, which seems like every shot in the movie. Her father’s closest friend, Buff, (Jaime Blumenstein) arrives with a privileged, somewhat saucy demeanor; his pointed comments to her and her familiar, gentle gestures with the piano reflect the two characters’ eventual clash in the slow-moving tome. These emotional, technical, and physical details — the liveliness, the shaky awkwardness between them — serve to accentuate the emotion being played out between, for example, Lydia and her father when the woman arrives and, later, in the film when she’s onstage. The piano plays a huge role in her story, first as a comforter, comfort buffer, and finally as a musical weapon. After the pianist has left, and just as Blumestein announces he’s leaving to go to the airport, the audience hears several lovely vocal choruses in the distance. Says Gunadttir: “A voice can make a movie.”
The movie is largely mediated through this slowly unfolding sequence of unaltered live performances; in the early scenes, Buff comes in to have Lydia play him a snippet of a song at her parents’ apartment. Then, over the course of the film, he’ll meet her once at a café, then a few days later when traveling, then when she’s with her father and husband. But it’s Lydia, not her piano, that feels the greatest pull. d2c66b5586