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Austin Film Festival: Autumn (2023) Review

As you could probably tell from my discussion with the director and co-stars, I loved this film. Tenderly told and gorgeously shot, Antonio Sequeira’s feature-length debut is a stunningly human slice-of-life. Examining the changes in a family’s dynamic once their son leaves to study in London, it’s a movie that’s bursting with ideas, yet never feels heavy-handed or too direct. I was not only impressed by how each of these characters has their own well-rounded inner life, but how Sequeira managed to balance the script, adding levity and warmth to give us not just a look at shifting parent-childhood relationships, but life itself. Recently making its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival, this breathtaking movie is one to look out for!

Arranged episodically, dipping in and out of the family’s life in accordance with the academic calendar (autumn, winter, spring, summer), the writing expertly handles time. As the seasons pass, viewers get a real sense of how these characters are changing, coming to know and accept more about themselves and each other. I found each of their arcs to be nuanced, written with a real thoughtfulness to who they are as people. Such character-centered writing and filmmaking makes it easy to connect with what’s happening onscreen; coupled with the lovely visuals, it makes for a watch you can get lost in.

Anastasiia Vorotniuk does some really beautiful things with light and framing throughout this film. With an almost painterly eye, she uses color and blocking to insert a dreamlike, nostalgic quality to each sequence while giving us deep insights into how these characters relate to one another and themselves. Sequeira told me blocking is something he works on a lot in rehearsals (with input from the actors), and Vorotniuk honors that effort with her camerawork. It almost appears as though the lens were floating, bringing a subjectivity to the film’s formal qualities that adds yet another layer of humanity, which brings me to the acting.

In our conversation, Miguel Frazão talked about his process involving speaking with locals, and it really paid off. Otávio is a complex character: sexist, racist, but also very tender with his family, and filled with a kind of love all his own. Beatriz Frazão embodies Belinha with an incredible level of commitment, capturing all the excitement, shock and anger that comes with coming of age. Salvador Gil was a strong lead as Tomás, giving us a character who’s very sure of himself while leaving room for tons of vulnerability; but, for me, Elsa Valentim was simply spectacular in this movie. Her commitment and range make for an achingly beautiful delve into gender roles and her character’s sense of self, a real standout performance!

This is a film that I can only describe as transcendent; it feels so grounded in observing the daily minutia of a family’s life, yet through that framing somehow seems to leave us with something much bigger. Time passes, relationships change, but to live is to live in community, amongst family, regardless of how thorny that can be. There are plenty of films that are (rightfully) critical of the familial patriarchal structure, but few if any of those films accomplish the nuance Sequeira has. Find out where to watch it here.

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