My Darling Supermarket
2021, NR, 80 min. Directed by Tali Yankelevich.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., March 12, 2021
Heralding its intentions with a title that reads like an introduction to a love letter, Brazilian filmmaker Tali Yankelevich’s documentary feature debut My Darling Supermarket is just that: a mash note to a grocery store in São Paulo. Or to be more precise, a mash note to the employees of said grocery store. They are the bakers, the shelf stockers, the checkout clerks performing their repetitive rituals of labor in an endless loop. Through interviews with a handful of the staff from various departments, the film aims to explore the inner thought life of the people who are a vital part of feeding the community.
Lit blindingly bright and always meticulously stocked, Supermercado Veran is a hermetically sealed environment (the camera never ventures beyond it). Gustavo Almeida’s cinematography juxtaposes languid tracking shots of aisles with close-ups of working hands: chopping meat, slicing cheese, kneading dough, scanning items, all accompanied by playful classical music. And then there are “just ordinary people doing their jobs,” as one manager describes them. There’s a sweet baker who loves Japanese culture and sometimes wanders the store in cosplay. Another baker has interests in ancient aliens, quantum physics, and Orwell. Through her bank of monitors, a security guard watches over her daughter, also an employee. A cashier describes a panic attack brought on by a profound existential sadness he experienced during a shift. A butterfly leisurely flaps its wings on a storage shelf, the metaphor laboriously conveyed.
Yankelevich has stated that the idea for her film came after a late night visit to a supermarket. She was in an aisle and overheard two employees having a passionate discussion about their respective first loves. Eavesdropping in, the idea struck her that these employees had lives outside of meticulously arranging cereal boxes, a concept that is, at best, utterly naive; at worst, extraordinarily offensive. It is difficult to see My Darling Supermarket for the whimsical anthropological oddity it so desperately strives to be. After discovering the soul of the working class, perhaps Yankelevich should next tackle the nescience of bourgeoisie.
Available now as a virtual cinema release.