Raquel 1:1, the second feature from Brazilian filmmaker Mariana Bastos, is a fascinating horror-adjacent film with a distinct feminist voice and extremely impactful, female, characters. The film is reminiscent of both Benedetta and Carrie but is never quite as bold as either, instead relying on elements of magical realism and folk horror and avoiding cliches. This subtlety is not necessarily a flaw, and the film is at its strongest when exploring the lives of the female characters and the difficult balance between faith, identity, and one's values.
Raquel (Valentina Herszage) moves with her father, Hermes (Emilio de Mello), to a small town in Brazil after a traumatic event at home. Eager to move on Raquel immerses herself in her bible and befriends the other young women of the town from the local church, fanatical catholic church. In small town Brazil there is little room for transgressions, so when a strange event by the local river leaves Raquel convinced she can form a separate church group to rework the misogyny in the bible it doesn't take long for word to travel.
Raquel's main friend, Laura (Eduarda Samara) supports her throughout, and the love between the two despite the difficulties it causes for them within their community is genuinely touching. The horror in Raquel 1:1 seems to lie more in the paranoia and cruelty of the community than the supernatural elements, and it is definitely a tough watch at points, although Bastos seems to steer clear of gratuitous violence and gore, only heightening and sustaining the unsettling nature of the events.
The main issue with the movie is the lack of a clear climactic scene, only a suggested explosive ending which is to an extent ambiguous and while a brilliant riff on the themes of religious trauma and a beautiful scene, was not ultimately completely satisfying in light of the slow burn of the rest of the film. Greater payoff could have been afforded, but Raquel and Laura's enduring trust and love is a pleasant spark fanned throughout, shining brighter than ever by the end.
Raquel 1:1 is not a happy movie by any means, but these characters were a joy throughout, and the extent to which Hermes supports his daughter is touching and a welcome break from the hostility the hyper-religious parents in the town show towards their own families, even if he does make mistakes. The themes of gender-based violence, religious trauma, and mental illness, as well as the feminist voice of the movie are powerful and unapologetic even in a subtle movie such as this, and the performances are as understated but impactful as the rest of the film. While the ending could have been more satisfying, it is still thought provoking and doesn't detract from the brilliance of the rest of Raquel 1:1.
Raquel 1:1 will showing at Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023