Ever wonder what a quieter, art-house, foreign-language version of a Pet Sematary riff mixed with Romero + Juliet would look like? You probably haven’t. But, in the slim chance that you have: I give you Alice Furtado’s directorial debut: SICK, SICK, SICK.
Making its debut at Cannes last May, this Brazilian horror-drama (but more so art-house drama than horror, to be honest) tells the tale of a young woman named Silvia (Luiza Kosovski) who falls quickly in love/lust with the young Artur (Juan Paiva). Starting off with…literally…a bang, the two quickly become inseparable, as he reveals to her that he suffers from hemophilia, which can cause severe bleeding. At a mere 20 minutes in, Artur dies from his illness, and Silvia falls into a hole of heartbreak and desperation. And, if you’re as familiar with Pet Sematary as I imagine you are, you can probably take a wild guess where this story is headed…it’s just too bad that the script takes entirely too long to get there.
On a technical level, Furtado’s talent and her choices are unmatched. Her film is stunning— with washes of pinks and purples over her actors’ lovelorn faces, the lighting consistently looks amazing in every frame. She incorporates spot-on sound design within scenes involving the nearby ocean. Her composer Orlando Scarpa Neta’s score is perhaps a bit too subtle at times, but still beautiful, nonetheless, especially within the third act— it’s hypnotic. Unfortunately, these things don’t always make up for what Furtado’s film lacks in story and intrigue for her audience.
As someone who appreciates (and often loves) slower, more contemplative films, even I was starting to feel SICK, SICK, SICK’s dragging pace. I felt confused during much of the second act of the film, as a couple of new characters were introduced, yet very little plot moved forward. Perhaps it may have worked more efficiently as a 30-minute short, or maybe 15-20 minutes shaved off of its unnecessary 104-minute runtime. Admittedly, however, Furtado does manage to create an atmosphere in various portions throughout, which is laudable.
Kosovski as Silvia, whom the film primarily follows, does what she can with the little she is given— showcasing the subtleties of her talent whilst wallowing in melancholic scenes of her grief. As the film is not super dialogue-driven, Kosovski relies on her eyes primarily to emote, with the exception of a pivotal third act climax. Her performance particularly stands out during a voodoo ritual scene that requires a very committed physicality from her, as well as strong direction from Furtado. I dug it.
As for the genre elements? They arrive…eventually. Some pretty impressive and graphic blood and guts effects are splayed about, as a (minimal) number of people die, in sacrifice to Silvia’s loss. And the film’s final shot/reveal is still somewhat effective, even though you’re anxiously waiting for it to come and starting to feel increasingly impatient.
Issues aside, SICK, SICK, SICK has its gifts, but only for tolerant viewers who fully embrace how low-key of a film it truly is. If it doesn’t sound like it’s for you, then it probably isn’t. But if you’re a foreign language film completest and want to watch a visually astounding film about relatable first-love heartbreak and the depths that some will go to bring their loved ones back from the grave, perhaps give SICK, SICK, SICK a shot on a quiet Sunday afternoon. (And then maybe chase it with a movie with a bit more oomph afterwards.)