“Autumn” is a compelling portrayal of the ever-evolving family dynamics as children grow older and venture out into the world. The characters grapple with an enduring desire for something more, often failing to appreciate their present circumstances until change is thrust upon them. The film powerfully captures the evolution of relationships over time and the occasionally frustrating yet unbreakable bonds within a family unit.
(Warning: The following content contains spoilers.) In a serene Portuguese village, this cinematic gem unfolds over the span of a year. As the son Tomás departs to study abroad in London, his absence has a profound impact on each family member. The audience gets glimpses into each school break when Tomás returns home. As the seasons change and time passes, the family grows apart. They begin as a tight-knit unit with evenings filled with dancing, stomping grapes, and family dinners. However, as Tomás returns home for winter break, the delicate balance between spending time with his family and hometown friends creates a sense of rejection for the first time.
By spring, Tomás brings a girlfriend home, further diverting his attention away from his family. His sister Belinha reveals that she also wants to study abroad, leaving their parents to confront the reality of an “empty nest.” Their father Otávio falls into a mid-life crisis, and their mother Susana experiences a newfound emptiness as she suddenly has no one left to take care of.
Summer arrives, but Tomás doesn’t return home at all. It’s not until autumn that the family reunites to celebrate his birthday, culminating in a heartwarming moment of dancing together, just as they did at the beginning of the film.
“Autumn” masterfully explores the intricate nuances of family relationships and the inevitability of growing up. It pushes viewers to reflect on their own relationships with their parents as Otávio and Susana struggle to find direction when their kids are away. From the parents’ perspective, we learn the importance of allowing children to grow up and cherishing the time spent with them. The film emphasizes the need for parents to rediscover their own interests and identity once their caregiving roles diminish.
This film will elicit both laughter and tears. Its captivating cinematography skillfully conveys the changing relationships among the characters. In the beginning, during the autumn season, a continuous 11-minute shot symbolizes the family’s unity and synchronicity. As the story progresses, subsequent scenes feature more cuts, diverse framing, and shifting perspectives, signifying the family’s increasing disconnection.
Director and writer Antonio Sequeira, along with co-producer Anastasia Vorotniuk, have crafted a powerful and resonant narrative. The film boasts a stellar cast, including Golden Globe winner Beatriz Frazão as Belinha, Miguel Frazão (Beatriz’s real-life father) as Otávio, Elsa Valentim as Susana, and Salvador Gil as Tomás.
Antonio Sequeira, the creative force behind the film, beautifully encapsulates the emotional essence of “Autumn,” stating, “When parents have kids, they sacrifice a lot of things for us, and then we just leave. They spend decades turning down their friends to spend time with their kids, they put aside their wildest dreams for secure jobs for their kids, and suddenly, we are gone. Just like that, the house becomes empty, and parents need to change their priorities in life and face each other for the first time in many years. And on top of that, as a person going back home, you feel you’ve changed so much when you were away that you no longer are the person they remember, and suddenly they too feel very different, and the connection you once had starts to fade away.”
The world premiere of “Autumn” took place on October 28, 2023, at the Galaxy Theater, where every seat was occupied, and laughter and tears were abundant. “Autumn” is an exquisite creation from a talented team and will certainly leave an indelible mark on the world of cinema.