Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Directed by: #AbdelmoulaElHadi
Written by: #AbdelmoulaElHadi
In The Choice, the death of a family pet causes questions about mortality to arise in a family. Alicia, the mum, played by Ana Henriques, holds beliefs that go against Tom’s, her husband, played by Daniel Simão. However, they must put their differences aside to teach their daughter, Amelie, played by Vitoria Lima, about death.
Abdelmoula El Hadi plays with the dichotomy between cremation and burial by constructing around each word. Alicia wants to bury Lucy, she believes in honouring the body; Tom, however, wants to cremate the cat because it is “quicker”. Alicia is more emotional and her demeanour is fragile, so much so that she spends almost every scene sitting down; on the other hand, Tom is more aggressive and rational, he stands up angrily and paces the room but, ironically, he tires himself by digging a hole for the cat.
One might argue that the discussion presented in the film is much more than just about the dead pet, but about not recognising the person you are supposed to know the most – Alicia asks what happened to Tom, he seems like a block of ice, and Tom’s reaction when listening to Alicia’s reasons to prefer the burial shows confusion and surprise. When we are confronted with a new image that challenges our ideas, we tend to get angry and frustrated, hence Tom and Alicia’s reactions. However, in The Choice, this unrecognition transgresses the level of opinions and bears its significance in the realm of religion - “cremation is the front door to hell”. Here, then, the parents are teaching their kid about mortality and religion. The film doesn’t pick a side, Abdelmoula’s narrative choices place the film right at the middle, standing on top of the fence, but towards the film picks up a tone that becomes too moralistic, trying to teach us something – and I felt that went against the indifferent position the film held until then.
The film can be divided in two, mostly due to its cinematography and editing - the first part, which is the majority of the film, revolves around Lucy’s burial, and the second shows moments in the future, focusing on the now grown-up daughter, played by Catarina Flor. The first part is more static, the camera movements are a bit more conservative – we see close-ups, reaction shots, some movements with pans and tilts, but the main use of the camera in the first part serves the purpose of showing how each character is fixated on their own opinions. The second part is more fluid, lighter, the focal point here, the daughter, doesn’t position herself and thus allows for more sophisticated use of the camera. The editing too changes between the two parts, where the editing was mostly between action shot and reaction shot during scenes of dialogues, in the second part the editing cuts between sequences, not following dialogue, but following movements. Amelie is free, quite literally, and is allowed by the camera movements to move forward.