SXSW 2022 Review: Raquel 1:1

Mariana Bastos’ Raquel 1:1 questions what would happen if the Bible was written with more favorability toward women in its passages. Sure to strike a chord with those who interpret the Bible differently, Bastos’ film focuses on the horror of what happens when outside thought breaks tradition and challenges people to think another way.

Less of a full-on horror film and more of a drama with some horror elements, Raquel 1:1 is more focused on how people react to different beliefs than theirs. And in Brazil, where the film is set, it can result in multiple, unthinkable attacks such as targeted graffiti and your home being ransacked. While Bastos is able to capture that effect quite well, there is still this feeling that Raquel 1:1 could have been more than it actually is.

Raquel (Valentina Herzage) and her father Hermes (Emilio de Mello) move to a small town following the death of Raquel’s mother at the hands of a violent ex-boyfriend. The mother’s death isn’t shown onscreen, but there are several audible flashbacks that Raquel has, reliving the horrifying moment. Once they relocate, Raquel makes friends with people from her local church. But a sign she receives has some questioning her faith after she feels the Bible needs to be rewritten to make it fairer toward women.

The film focuses a lot on how women have suffered or are currently suffering at the hands of men. But it doesn’t make all men evil. Hermes is supportive of his daughter, and there are others who come to Raquel’s side as well. Bastos’ even-balanced approach to the story and its message is presented more as how different types of people react to this situation, rather than it being men act one way and women act another.

Some support Raquel, such as her friend Laura (Eduarda Samara) – who later is revealed to be in an abusive relationship with Gustavo (Ravel Andrade). Others demean her, such as Ana (a fantastic Priscila Bittencourt), the daughter of the church pastor, and also the Queen Bee of the religious cell. She’s manipulative and domineering in ensuring Raquel caters her views more toward what the rest of the people believe.

Once she sets out on her mission, Raquel begins receiving death threats and abusive attacks from the townspeople. On top of the horror that she’s experiencing in her new town, Raquel is also seeing strange scars form on her body.

Herzage is exceptionally good as Raquel, a teenager devoted to her faith but also uncertain in her new setting. As the film unfolds, Raquel’s battle between what she believes and what others want her to believe becomes intriguing to watch. There are some elements of Brian De Palma’s Carrie present here, sans the revenge factor.  

Raquel 1:1 is a good feminist feature without feeling like it’s pushing its message down the viewers’ throats or only favoring one side. Bastos presents the themes and symbols and lets the actors perform their parts without it becoming too heavy-handed.

There is this feeling, however, that Bastos wants to go for more than what she does. And while the film presents different passages from the Bible that are deemed unfavorable, and one scene has Raquel imagining her name contained in the other chapters, it doesn’t feel as challenging to the viewer as it should be. A lot of it feels more plain and straightforward, and it’s more noticeable in the final act as all the pieces come together.

Raquel 1:1 is a neat thriller that is gorgeously shot and has some beautifully lit scenes. The performances are solid across the board, and there are some great moments throughout. Although it doesn’t quite land the plane as smoothly as it should have, it’s still a serviceable film that showcases how people can react to different thoughts when they’re so ingrained in their beliefs.

David Wangberg

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