Dir: Lillah Halla | Brazil, Portugal, Spain | Sports Drama 92′
There’s plenty of energy and a queer vision behind this female-centric volleyball drama. Even the shower scenes fizz with a fast-moving tomboyish vibe and a thumping score from Brazilian band ‘Badsista’.
Playing in the Cannes Critics’ Week line-up, Brazilian director Lillah Halla’s colourful debut feature follows a teenage volleyball player who discovers she is pregnant in the run-up to an important championship match in a country where abortion is illegal.
The tone then turns more downbeat as 17 year old Sofia (Ayomi Domenica Dias) reflects on her options, not knowing who to turn to given the country’s termination ban. Blocked in her attempts to seek an illegal termination Sofia realises her career is now in question and she fears the worst when Gloria and Dr Elias confirm the pregnancy is well on the way.
There is a positive way forward for Sofia but it will involve telling her widowed father Joao (Rômulo Braga) who is equally invested in her future and proud of her achievements. He flies into a rage when he finds out the news, and is naturally opposed to Sofia’s wish to terminate. As the pregnancy develops the colour-scape becomes more vivid, shot through with a surreal neon aesthetic reflecting Sofia’s wildest fears.
Halla’s narrative never opts for the predictable instead there’s a complex set of circumstances in the mix as her central character’s dramatic arc develops with Sofia experiencing a sudden and unexpected transformation.
The story gradually unfolds to reflect that well-worn maxim: “life is what happens when you are making other plans”. Punchy and well-put-together Power Alley gets its message across in a drama that is both educational, tense and watchable. Lillah Hilla is certainly a talent in the making. MT
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | COMPETING for Cannes’ Queer Palm Competition | CRITICS’ WEEK COMPETITION 2023