Rosa (Victória Guerra) is struggling with life in My Grandfather’s Demons. She’s in a dead-end job in a company where they reward productivity with a golden digital mascot type award–but that’s not enough for her. Because of this, she’s great at what she does, one day, she freaks out. Nobody knew that her grandfather (António Durães) died, and pretty soon, she was asked to take a holiday.
In what makes this film unique is in how two different animation styles are used to represent the realities that Rosa lives in. I sense this woman’s been feeling very disconnected from the world because her grandfather died. For example, the introduction of her life in a big city is rendered in CGI, whereas the countryside is made with clay and animated in stop motion. The latter may well stand for how Rosa needs to return to her roots. She needs to reground herself.
Also, I sense that her family doesn’t want to deal with cleaning up grandpa Marcelino’s estate, and apparently the home is her inheritance. When considering what she learns when she cleans up the mess he left is heartbreaking, her days spent in the village are tough. Gramps wasn’t loved by the community when compared to what she remembers of her time with him. Although her own memories are of a child’s perspective, what she discovers are completely different!
This poignant film by Portuguese director Nuno Beato is very sentimental. Although the moments with grandpa’s ghost feels unworldly, what we see isn’t all that frightening. The fact he’s wearing a mask or has the head of a bull helps is a touch comical than scary. Instead, what we hear from the people who hate Marcelino is far worse.
In contrast, this young lady has fond childhood memories. But when he visits her in her dreams, he’s wearing a rather scary mask. Although he’s technically in a Hell of his own making, what he hopes for is redemption, so he can make it to Heaven.
Durães’ performance gives Marcelino’s life gravitas. Now that he’s in the afterlife, he regrets everything he did. He didn’t mean to be that cranky fool and treat everyone he knows badly. The sentiment he reveals to his granddaughter isn’t hard to swallow, and as for whether he can remove that mask, that’d be spoiling too much.
If she can mend fences to restore the family reputation in this sleepy town more so than just an individual, that’ll be good. But to find out what gramps did that’s so reprehensible so will be tough. Thankfully, she is much more personable and has his ghost around to help. We can learn from Rosa’s little adventure, and when she returns to work after dealing with My Grandfather’s Demons, perhaps she can bring a memento from that secret garden she helped bring back to life.
4 Stars out of 5
My Grandfather’s Demons Trailer
This movie played at Fantasia Film Festival 2022 on July 23.