The latest feature to be written and directed by American filmmaker Paxton Winters and co-produced by Darren Aronofsky, Pacified takes place in a favela during the end of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Centring around the troubled life of 13-year-old resident Tati (Cassia Gil), the project is intended to be a study of the complex relationship between violence and family within the favela’s hierarchy as tension with the police intensifies. Unfortunately, due to a sporadic and generally unfocused screenplay that relies on melodramatics, this flick plays out more like an overlong soap opera than the hard-hitting family drama it desperately tries to be.
The issue with Winters’ film is that it doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to be. One minute it’s a coming-of-age-style tale, the next a crime thriller, and then a tedious melodrama. Throw in a handful of unfunny jokes and Pacified is a complete mess of ideas with a lack of direction. All of this would have been fine, however, if there was still a logical progression in any of the many plots that sprout during its two-hour runtime.
One scene, for example, sees Tati and her mother (Débora Nascimento) accosted by police, only for them to be released. Not five minutes later, we see the mother imprisoned and never mentioned again. A similar lack of thought comes into play in a climax that comes out of nowhere and ends just as swiftly, and in a paternity subplot that is all but pointless. Watching this film, it seems that numerous key scenes have been cut that would have filled at least some of these gaps. Surely there must be a pile of them lying somewhere.
Pacified’s saving grace that keeps this movie watchable is young Gil’s performance. Able to carry so much emotion with the subtlest of gestures and fewest of words, her captivating onscreen presence far outshines all the other experienced performers, including Bukassa Kabengele (Jaca, Tati’s father), who is also a noteworthy presence.
Although it’s only two hours long, there is so much constantly being piled into this feature that it feels more like three hours. Pacified is simply a picture that tries to do too much. Had it been more focused, Gil’s performance could have made this film incredible.
Pacified does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Tribeca Film Festival 2020 coverage here.