Connect with us


Once Upon a Time, Veronica | Review

Sex and Candy: Gomes’ Wise, Intricate Character Study

Once Upon a Time, Veronica PosterArriving over two years after its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival, Brazilian director Marcelo Gomes’ sophomore effort Once Upon a Time, Veronica (receiving a slightly tweaked new title) finally arrives stateside. Picking up several notable awards back home and through its round on the festival circuit, with a little luck the film should position Gomes as one of the most promising new voices from Brazil, and place him in the ranks of Karim Ainouz (with whom he co-directed a film in 2009), and Kleber Mendonca Filho, whose 2012 title Neighboring Sounds seems to have eclipsed Gomes’ title and stole some of his thunder with its rapturous critical reception.

Veronica (Hermila Guedes) has just passed her exams and has retained a position as a psychiatrist in a Recife public hospital. However, dealing with people face to face is not what she had expected, with impatient patients expecting easy prescriptions and not so much the empathetic understanding that Veronica seems eager to administer. She takes out her frustration through one of her favorite activities, which happens to be sex, sometimes with a regular lover (Jose Miguel). Living with her retired banker father (W.J. Solha), Veronica isn’t prepared for unfortunate news concerning her father’s health, forcing her to grow in unexpected ways.

Frank in its depiction of sexual pleasure as a safe and manageable outlet (unlike, say, the punishing, consuming force it’s often characterized as in heteronormative Western cinema), Veronica is a refreshing and subtle examination of its protagonist’s emotional development, hinged on a precipice of several major changes threatening to upset her heretofore comfortable existence.

Dealing firsthand with patients but not quite comfortable being a physician, Veronica’s eyes are at last awakened to the reality of her profession, which includes a daily dose of apathetic, cruel, and violent personalities that care more for her powers of prescription than the distinctly human touch she attempts to administer. Meanwhile, the news that her father’s condition is terminal paired with the sudden news that construction will displace them from their current residence for upwards of one to two years, causes her emotions to tailspin a bit, forcing her to fake a more serious connection with one of her main flings in order to convince her father that happiness is on her horizon. It’s a testament to the wisdom in Gomes’ script when Veronica comes to the conclusion and shares with her father that she will not be engaged to be married. “What’s good for you is good for me,” he succinctly advises.

Set within Recife, the same coastal city as depicted in Filho’s Neighboring Sounds, but limited, more or less, to the perspective of one character rather than a myriad of voices, the proximity (and soon the absence) of others begins to have a marked effect on Veronica. Jarring us into her sexual proclivities as the film opens on a scene of joyous group sex, neither Veronica’s libido nor her consequential pleasures are ever at stake (the juxtaposition of sex and fulfillment here is interesting to note in comparison to Karim Ainouz’s 2014 title Futuro Beach, a guiding factor for Wagner Moura’s character).

As Veronica, Hermila Guedes (star of the Ainouz film Love for Sale, 2006) has a striking and beautiful visage, utilized to perfection in one extended sequence where she breaks down in tears at the news of her father’s diagnosis. Gomes shares other factors besides the locale with Filho, as cast members Maeve Jinkings and W.J. Solha also make notable impressions here, as well. A subtle observation of the conflicting dynamics that often stimulate us in an unanticipated ways, Once Upon a Time, Veronica is an impressive portrayal.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

Click to comment

More in Reviews

To Top