Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica (orig. Era uma vez eu, Verônica) [2012]

Unrated (would be R)   Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing 
Adorocinema.com listing: [PT-orig] [ENG-trans]

Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica (orig. Era uma vez eu, Verônica) [2012] [IMDb] [AC-PT orig.] [Eng-Trans]written and directed by Marcelo Gomez [IMDb] [AC-PT orig] [Eng-Trans] is a Brazilian film that played recently at the 48th Chicago International Film Festival (Oct 11-25, 2012) and could be described as Central Station (orig. Central do Brazil) [1998] meets Gray's Anatomy [2005-] / E.R. [1994-2009].

Recent medical school graduate Verônica (played by Hermila Guedes [IMDb] [AC-PT orig.] [Eng-Trans]) gets a residency assignment at an urban public hospital in her home city somewhere in coastal, north-eastern Brazil.  She lives with her aging father (played by W.J. Solha [IMDb] [AC-PT. orig.] [Eng.-Trans]).  And she also has a lover/boyfriend named Gustavo (played by João Miguel [AC-PT. orig] [Eng.-Trans]) that in truth she's not entirely certain about (and neither is he about her).

The work in the hospital is both challenging and important, hence my references to both the Brazilian film Central Station (orig. Central do Brazil) [1998] and the American television series E.R. [1994-2009] (that was also set in an urban setting in the United States).

However, Verônica is also a young adult trying to make sense out of her life, hence the somewhat "Brazilian Gray's Anatomy [2005-]" feel to the movie, (Gray's Anatomy being an American television series about a group of young medical school graduates).

That being said, someone like me, a Catholic priest from a religious order with a fair number of our priests having worked as chaplains in both Catholic and secular hospitals in the United States, I do have to raise the complaint that both this film and the American teleivion series, Gray's Anatomy [2005-] have presented the lives of recently graduated medical doctors as basically "party time" where the patients actually "kinda get in the way" of their otherwise "dulce vita."

At the end of the film, Verônica buys a house for her and her dad (a point is made that she had already bought a car) and takes a job in a _private hospital_ (where she presumably won't have to deal with that many poor people anymore).  And the film ends with Verônica rolling around with her on-again/off-again boyfriend and their friends at beautiful Brazilian beach somewhere.

That may be "the dream" _both_ in the United States and in Brazil for the past several generations when it comes to "doctors" ... that they simply become very, very rich or otherwise "important."  But that's _not_ what medical doctors used to be.

Medical doctors _used to be_  respected because they _healed people_ at times putting even themselves at risk in doing so.  Today, thanks to the soaps in the United States (and telenovelas in Latin America and elsewhere) medical doctors are generally presented as simply glamorously rich people and working with sick people needing help has become beside the point and even a burden.  

As such, the current film ends rather badly in my opinion.  HOWEVER, this may actually be the intent of the film maker as the title implies that Verônica loses herself.  The title of the film is, after all, "Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica" (or "Era uma vez eu, Verônica" in the original Portuguese).

In any case, medical doctors, whether American, Brazilian, Egyptian, German, Indian, Japanese, or Russian if they are not taking care of sick people, people who need them then they are not really doing their job.

Finally, I would also note that there is "a fair amount" of nudity in this film.  I do hope that those readers who do see it will understand both my noting it and my rather obvious ambivalence to it, because I think that the nudity in the film was both "beside the point" and/or may actually _accentuate it_: Why does one (or should one) become a medical doctor...? To _help people_ or simply to become rich or otherwise "important"? 

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