Review: Brazilian biopic ‘Elis’ captures singer’s vitality, but lacks context

Andréia Horta in the Brazilian film “Elis.”
(Cleopatra Entertainment)

From its opening moments, “Elis” reveals its beautiful but flawed approach to the famed Brazilian singer of its title. Elis Regina (Andréia Horta) is backlighted, with the sounds of her voice on “Como Nossos Pais” hypnotizing the audience from its first bars. It’s lovingly shot by cinematographer Adrian Teijido, but we cannot see Regina’s face, hidden by shadows.

Centering on a vibrant performance by Horta and lively musical moments, this Brazilian biopic from director Hugo Prata celebrates Regina’s talent, but it never gives real insight into who she was as a person or the historical period that fueled her work.

The narrative begins with Regina’s early days in Rio de Janeiro as she struggles to become the singer who would captivate the South American nation during political turbulence in the late 1960s and early ’70s. “Elis” follows her from begging to get paid in a Rio bar to charming an international audience on stage in Cannes, France, while it delves into her romantic and family life.

“Elis” is handsomely made, particularly in its period detail and cinematography, but it lacks context for the uninitiated. Those unfamiliar with Brazilian history or Elis’ life won’t be given background or even dates to establish the passage of time. Its episodic nature and refusal to clarify who, what or when means that it lacks a cohesive, coherent narrative, with Regina’s songs serving as the only connective tissue.




In Portuguese with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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