Dalva (Nina Medeiros) lives with her father Jorge (Julio Machado) and her aunt Cristina (Luciana Paes). Her mother has sadly passed away and when Cristina, too, keeps withdrawing from the family, things fall more and more apart. Jorge is too preoccupied with his own grief to take much care of Dalva. Dalva knows that she can’t count on him, so she starts to experiment with witchcraft, hoping to bring her mother back from the dead.
A Sombra do Pai is a strange film that has some interesting bits but maybe should have been separated into two movies – it just doesn’t feel entirely coherent.
A Sombra do Pai basically tells two stories: that of Dalva and that of Jorge. This is already a problem: it should be one story – it should be their story. That it isn’t can generously be interpreted as a mirror of how their family isn’t being held together anymore, but it just makes the film feel frayed and not entirely together.
Especially since the stories vary strongly in quality: Dalva’s story is amazing, with Medeiros being impressive in the role and making Dalva’s loneliness a visceral experience. I also really loved the plant. Jorge’s story on the other hand doesn’t just feel disconnected from Dalva’s, but also disconnected from itself, as if they actually weren’t done thinking about what they were trying to say with his part.
I also struggled with Cristina’s role in the entire affair. I know that if I saw that one of my siblings neglected their child to the extent that Jorge does, I would be there all the time to try and fill the gap as best I can. Cristina makes different choices and I couldn’t quite go along with her decision here.
The film culminates in a very open ending and while I would like to know what happened next, I am also pretty sure that things can’t really go well there, so maybe it was a good thing that it did stop where it stopped. While my desire to know more shows that I was emotionally invested in the film and its characters, the film just didn’t pass “fine” territory.