DIRECTOR: CRISTELE ALVES MEIRA STARRING: LUA MICHEL, ANA PADRAO, JACQUELINE CORADO RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 25 MINUTES
Like every summer, little Salome returns to a family village in the mountains. Suddenly her beloved grandmother dies. While the adults are fighting over the funeral, Salome is haunted by the spirit of the one who was considered a witch.
FILM REVIEW: (This review contains spoilers.) “Where do we go when we die?”
Cristele Alves Meira’s film, Alma Viva, is the International Feature submission from Portugal. The film is about a young girl, named Salome, who spends her entire time with her aunts and uncles in a small town in Portugal because her mother is working in France. Salome is particularly close with her grandmother, Avo. They share a special bond with one another because they both have an “open body,” which means spirits can enter inside them easily.
Salome’s life though is turned upside down when Avo dies peacefully in her sleep. Determined to keep in touch with her, Salome uses all her skills to try to let Avo inside her “open body,” so that she can continue to talk with her.
As the saying goes, “don’t play with the dead.” And what happens next is truly frightening.
Led by a fantastic performance by Lua Michele, as Salome, director Meira has created a beautiful film about family, about life and about death. She perfectly captures a true family dynamic of what happens when a loved one passes away. To attend the funeral of Avo, all the aunts and uncles of Salome arrive to pay their respects. We see them cry. We see them argue about tombstones and who’s paying for the funeral. They get angry at one another and blame each other for the passing of their mother. The living close the eyes of the dead, but the dead open the eyes of the living.
The ones left behind want to hold on to the dead for as long as possible. They don’t want to let go. They can’t let go. But until a family can put their loved one to rest for eternity at a final resting spot, their alma viva, or living soul, will roam the earth as an unconscious ghost, restless and agitated with those around them.