The aesthetics of the mundane are the lingering focus and central theme of Alice’s House, the first feature film by Brazilian Chico Teixeira.
In a lower middle class neighbourhood of São Paulo, middle-aged Alice resides with in high-rise with her husband of 20 years (Lindomar, a taxi driver), their three sons and her doting mother. Their life looks dull and lacklustre, as does their dwelling. She works in a beauty salon and seems to find little joy at home; gossiping and exchanging beauty tips with one of her clients makes her life more eventful than engaging with her cold husband and angry, testosterone-fueled sons at home. Alice’s house (in reality; an apartment) hardly feels like Alice’s home, but instead as the uncomfortable and inevitable predicament in the routine of a working mother-of-three. The home portrayed by Teixeira is neither relaxing nor liberating; instead it feels oppressive and suffocating.
Sex is often the only escape from the family. Lindomar has an affair with a friend of one of their sons, while one of the sons has a fling with another girl. The eldest seems to have an liaison, likely as a prostitute, with an older man. Finally, Alice herself finds solace in a relationship with Nilson, the partner of one of her clients.
Tsehe sexual encounters has almost invariably a problematic outcome. Lindomar’s extra-marital affair comes to light after Alice (Carla Ribas) finds pictures of the lover in the husband’s wallet, prompting her to beat the young lover in a violent outburst of jealousy. The oldest son’s homosexual dalliance is made public to the family by one of his younger siblings, also triggering a frantic outburst of rage. In Brazil, concealed sexuality often culminates in physical violence. It is a dirty secret with serious consequences,
The adultery carried out by Alice has yet a different disclosure. She plans a secret break with her lover, but he simply does not show up. She seems doomed to a sad, uneventful life at home her husband and children. Her home/ house is her prison.
Alice’s family is not dysfunctional. Their disagreements and challenges are all-too-common and familiar to Brazilians: they are loud, emotional and express pathos in the most trivial situations. Teixeira created a beautifully crafted and realistic portrait of the average lower middle class Brazilian family, in its often unrelenting routine and mediocre conflicts.
Carla Ribas received wide acclaim and numerous international prizes for her riveting performance, but the film as a whole undeservingly earned less recognition. Audiences outside Brazil should rediscover the discreet charm of the lower middle classes of Brazil through this simple, effective and touching movie. DMovies selected Alice’s House as one of the dirtiest Brazilian movies of the past 10 years.