Home sweet subtitles

Captura de Tela 2020-02-11 às 15.18.48

My favourite Portuguese word has seven letters, short, but loaded with meaning: saudade. Saudade can’t quite be translated into English (or any other language, as a matter of fact). Its definition can be described as a profound, melancholic feeling of missing something or someone.

Leaving my country behind in order to pursue further education was not an easy choice, but it was one I felt ready to make after years of dreaming about moving abroad. Nothing, however, could truly prepare me for the overwhelming saudade I would feel of everything and everyone.

I have to say, it is only when you leave your home that you realise how much you actually belong where you were born. Moving to a different land brings all of your birthplace characteristics into sharp focus and suddenly you see yourself comparing even the smallest little habit or tradition common to this new environment to the ones you were raised to follow.

Since my very first trip abroad, I’ve realised that there was only one place where I actually felt totally and completely at ease: a cinema room, my home away from home. But the feeling would not be the same for any given screening; it needed to be a subtitled film.

It might seem like an odd statement, but subtitles have a nostalgic trait for me. I was always passionate about movies, but my home country of Brazil did not have a prominent film industry at the time. This meant I grew up watching films such as The Godfather, 8 ½, Jaws, Harry Potter and Amélie, all of them with one single common peculiarity: subtitles. When you are not born in an English speaking country, or a European country known for its film production, essentially every film is a foreign language film.

Before I started travelling, I have never once questioned subtitles; they were always so natural to me. Odd was the concept of a film without them. On my first visit to a foreign cinema, I was absolutely shocked by the lack of subtitles during the screening. My head could not conceive the idea of someone speaking English accompanied by a subtitleless screen. It was only when I went to see Leviathan that I finally felt like I was at a cinema again. There they were, my old friends, my companions. From that moment on, I have resorted to a subtitled film whenever I felt homesick or needed the comfort of something familiar.

Accepting his Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2019, Alfonso Cuarón, a Mexican film director, told the crowd formed mostly of his American colleagues that – to him – all classic American films were foreign language films. This passage of his speech hit me with the impact of a crushing wave. Right there, during the biggest event of awards season, with his third statuette of the night in hands, a Latin filmmaker voiced so clearly feelings I had nurtured for years, without being able to fully communicate. At the end of the day, I have learned that there is no cure for saudade, but if there were ever a film about it, it would most definitely be subtitled.








  • Original title: 1917
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Release year: 2019
  • Original language: English


Famously known through the soulful interpretation of Johnny Cash, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ is a gut-wrenching folk tale of homecoming. As effective as a throat punch, the song became a storytelling accessory when one wishes to express the deep layers of sorrow. Veerle Baetens beautifully brought it to life on Felix Van Groenigen’s The Broken Circle Breakdown as a grieving bluegrass anthem and, in 1917, Sam Mendes places the song in the epicentre of one of the film’s most moving sequences. 

Echoing through the forest, the lyrics reach the tired ears of Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay), a young man assigned a ticking bomb: to cross extremely dangerous enemy territory in order to deliver a message that stands between a bloodbath and the survival of 1,600 men. ‘I am a poor wayfaring stranger, traveling through this world of woe. Yet there’s no sickness, toil nor danger in that bright land to which I go’, sings a frightened soldier, one of the many thrown helpless into the burning pits of war. 

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The very sexist, very right-wing empire of Fox News is in the centre of Bombshell, a film that blends fact and fiction to tell the story of how chairman Roger Ailes was publicly ousted of his perennial throne (not before taking home the very comfortable sum of $40 million). The title Bombshell— a sharp wordplay, reflects on the starring trio of Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie; a blonde royal flush of sorts.

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(LFF 2019) Instinct


  • Original title: Instinct
  • Director: Halina Reijn
  • Release year: 2019
  • Original language: Dutch


Instinct had its UK premiere at the London Film Festival 2019

In a post-Game of Thrones world, it is tempting to imagine what some of the prime actors of the multi-awarded HBO phenomenon will move onto. Newcomer director Halina Heijn handpicks Carice Van Houten as the star of her directorial debut Instinct, a sexually charged tale of a prison psychologist playing a very dangerous cat and mouse game with one of her patients, a convicted serial rapist.

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The Souvenir


  • Original title: The Souvenir
  • Director: Joanna Hogg
  • Release year: 2019
  • Original language: English


Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is an aspiring filmmaker hungry for a deeper understanding of the world and its maladies. Fighting against telling her own story onscreen, she dives into the fictional tale of a working class boy obsessed with his mother, in a film that takes place in Sutherland, the striking opposite of her Harrods-facing Knightsbridge flat. The young woman is hyper-aware of the bubble she was raised in, one she desperately tries to break from, while still making the most of her entitled life by hosting house parties and having expensive dinners on some of the most prestigious places in London.

The journey of the protagonist is suddenly shaken by the arrival of Anthony (Tom Burke), an older man whose previous military career and current Foreign Office position grant him a worldly aura that easily draws Julie in. Their fresh romance unravels at the fast pace of a first love and soon Julie is saying goodbye to her flatmates and welcoming her beloved in. Anthony arrogantly talks her down, sending Julie into a spiral of self-doubt she struggles to escape from. Their toxic relationship exposes the young woman to a myriad of painful feelings her favoured life had sheltered her from. Both the apartment and Julie are rapidly submitted to the wreckage of Anthony’s unpredictable behaviour, scarred by the growing tension in their relationship.

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