70-year-old nurse Pedro (renowned TV star Marco Nanini) is working in an overfilled North Brazilian hospital. His transgender friend Daniela (Denise Weinberg) is suffering from chronic kidney disease; no lipstick or blue eyeshadow can hide the fact she is seriously ill.
Pedro selects Jean, a handsome wounded patient from the ward, and offers him a sexual favour and taxi money so he can give his space to his ailing friend. But, she refuses to stay in the men’s ward, having fought her whole life to be accepted as a woman.
Jean (Demick Lopes), a murder suspect, has no other option than to seek shelter, sex and friendship in Pedro’s home. Jean is the pragmatic type, a reality check for Pedro who lives his life in an old Hollywood fantasy. Director and writer, Armando Praça, isn’t interested in exploring the stereotypes of an ageing gay man and a murder suspect, although it does sometimes dip into this territory.
Greta requires some audience concentration to fully understand the relationship dynamics, it only becomes a fascinating watch if you take note of all the nuances. There is a touch of Stockholm Syndrome to Jean and Pedro’s relationship, but who is the victim and who is the captor isn’t explicitly specified. Audiences are expected to form their own opinions about Jean and Pedro’s relationship. The ambiguity between the pair, allows Greta to examine human behaviour in a unique and interesting way.
There are a few scenes that feel like they are from an entirely different film. A last act sex scene that is entirely made to please younger gay audiences and also a Blue Velvet-esque scene at a nightclub with Daniela— neither particularly add to the story. Daniela’s narrative arc, a large point in the first act, gets watered down too much. Jean and Pedro’s relationship takes centre stage, leaving audiences to second guess Daniela’s place in the story. Daniela, as a trans character, is played by a cisgender actress (who recently won an International Emmy for her role in Psi) and Jean’s cisgender female acquaintance is played by Greta Star, a transgender actress.
The film looks raw, uncomfortably so in places. The hospital is shot with a bleak coldness, halls littered with gurneys and patients, faceless doctors rushing around and blood splattered equipment left behind. Praça also understands how to frame and shoot the relationships, especially Daniela and Pedro’s. They may not be in love in the traditional sense, but they be for each other until the end.
Greta is a film about tenderness in a hostile time, a message most of us need to hear no matter our geographic location or situation. Pedro is a die-hard fan of actress Greta Garbo and lives his life by her famous quote “I want to be alone.” He has no friends, no relationships outside of his friendship with Daniela, no romance outside of casual sex in clubs. This type of story of loneliness within the LBGTQ community couldn’t have come at a better time in Brazil. Their recently installed president, Jair Bolsonaro, has frequently berated the LBGTQ community and has strongly started he’d prefer his own son dead, than gay. Greta is a story of perseverance, a sad but true example of aged LBGTQ aspirations.
This isn’t a perfect movie. There are too many loose ends and plot holes. There is a lack of chemistry between certain characters, which leaves the sex scenes looking inauthentic. The third act’s dive into the LBGTQ community starts to rely too much on stereotypes of gay sex, go-go dancers and gay bars. Despite the clumsy ending, Nanini and Weinberg’s performances are spectacular.
Greta is out now on Digital
by Amelia Harvey
Amelia Harvey is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy