(Portugal 2021; Dir: Daniel Soares)

O Que Resta

Deep rooted, hard headed

review by Jason Todd

O Que Resta

original title: O Que Resta

length: 20

year of production: 2021

country of production: Portugal

director: Daniel Soares

production: Daniel Soares

director of photography: Anna Franquesa-Solano

editing: Lucas Moesch

sound: Miguel Martins, Bruno Garcez

cast: "Maluquinho", João Patrício, Carlos Cairrão, Hélia Pinto

festivals: IndieLisboa 2021, Telluride International Film Festival 2021, Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival 2022

© images: 'O Que Resta' (Daniel Soares)

Emilio’s story, the film’s sole protagonist, is one we’ve seen and heard before. An aging farmer living alone in the mountains has come to a daunting realization: the world has moved on from him. All his neighbors are gone. The small country road leading up to his farm is mostly unused other than by himself, and the land he owns is now nothing more than a crippling backdrop for the cars to glance at when driving down the highway in the valley nearby.

While the man, now well in his 80s, silently eats his breakfast half naked in his humble kitchen, one can bear witness that Emilio’s wrinkled body is not as cooperative as it used to be. His breath, shortened by a lifelong habit of smoking cigarettes, and his bad leg being the result of a distant injury, both serve as stark reminders that, like his property, he’s living on borrowed time.

Despite all of this, Emilio has the looks of a fighting man and even though his farm is mostly empty and abandoned, he is still the owner of a goat he is now determined to get rid of. The world may have gone in a different direction, leaving him astray on his remote hill of nothingness, but that doesn’t mean he can’t, at least, try to catch up. Sadly, the first of many obstacles on Emilio’s path away from isolation is the animal itself. As it’s being pushed inside the back of a small car, making Emilio cough, struggling to keep balance with his bad leg, it soon becomes clear as day that the four legged beast is as stubborn as its owner and the ride to the auction sale won’t be so easy.

Beautifully shot on 16mm film and taking full advantage of Portugal’s mountainous landscape, ‘O que resta’ is documentary and music video director Daniel Soares' first fiction short film. After a notable passage at IndieLisboa and Telluride International Film Festival last summer, the film is starting its 2022 festival run with a stop in competition at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

The end result, not dissimilar to American classics like Wim Wenders’ ‘Paris, Texas’, is a slow paced road movie punctuated by brief moments of disorientation and growing frustration for our protagonist. As the farmer is making his way downtown to sell the animal, his whole surrounding slowly becomes alien to him, gradually morphing his frustration into a sense of despair. His old rusty car can’t keep up with the speed of the giant delivery trucks whizzing by, and stopping at a gas station to get water for the beast suddenly becomes a straining task. Even the man’s attire appears to be at odds with the people he meets. An old-fashioned cigarette hanging from his lower lips, a fading tattoo on his arm and a sun bleached cap on his head are few of many telltales that Emilio really is from a bygone era.

So, when the poor farmer finally gets to the auction, which is no longer held by the man he once knew, and is demanded to download an app in order to register his animal, that is when despair turns to hopelessness for Emilio. Trying in vain to bargain his way out of this dead-end, the farmer no longer sees the animal as a cumbersome annoyance, slowing him down in his path to renewal, but as a literal anchor denying him the possibility of moving away from what remains of his fading past. Now angry and anxious, Emilio is like a refugee in his own way, stuck in limbo, wandering alone and unwanted between past and present time. The first is refusing to let him go while the latter is too busy to bother helping him in.

‘O que resta’ is Portuguese for ‘what remains’. At the dawn of his life, where everything that mattered seems to have been lost to time, Emilio has woken up in front of a void, in the middle of an empty farm. In his situation, when the human mind tends to stiffen at the same rate the body weakens, maybe the real fight is more about accepting one’s path rather than trying to reverse back its track. After decades of dedicated farm work, Emilio is a proud man at the end of his road wondering what’s next only to be answered back by the echo of his own voice.

Over the course of its twenty minutes runtime, Soares’ film does make you wonder: What remains of a man no longer suited for the world he lives in? Where can one find solace and fulfillment when sitting at eternity’s gate? Questions for which their elusive answers seem to reveal themselves only to those who look inward. In that regard, the film’s final shot, set up in the exact same location the film started, offers a cyclical hint to what those answers might be.