Two years after hightailing it from her dead-end desert town in northeastern Brazil, aimless 21-year-old mother Hermila (Hermila Guedes) has wandered back from São Paulo to shack up with her grandma and gay aunt. She’s holding out for her even younger baby daddy to follow her home, and in the meantime relies on her single honed skill: exploiting her beauty. Fragile yet gutsy, Hermila doesn’t want to give in to the macho ruling culture by becoming a career whore like her friend Georgina (Georgina Castro). Rather, she inexplicably finds empowerment—and, more understandably, village-wide scorn—by selling lottery tickets for “one night in paradise.” Having brought so much sweeping personality to the screen with his trannie street-brawler biopic
Madame Satã, director Karim Aïnouz’s sophomore effort is likewise anchored by an impressive lead performance: an effervescent Guedes brings welcome fits of energy to Aïnouz’s studied drone. But the story’s one-note—once you know the title, you pretty much get the gist. Just as Hermila ought to escape her hometown, Guedes deserves to flee to a richer film.