From Petra to Elena – Read the film review ‘Elena’

From Petra to Elena – Read the film review ‘Elena’

Seeking closure is the way to heal old wounds. To do this, you must face the pain, sadness and memories that haunt you. For Petra Costa, the death of your sister, Elena Andrade, made her remember these events to find out why, resulting in a documentary of the same name.

From home movies and recordings, the story of Elena, a name also used for the film, is narrated by Petra, talking about her love for the performing arts. Through this, we see her passion for staging and soon we create a bond of affection with the character. Since she was little, Elena is seen as a sweet, kind and talented person, showing her dancing, acting or taking care of her younger sister. Over time, the young woman seeks to leave Brazil to expand her career, seeing that the cultural scene in Brazil was quite limited. So she goes to New York to achieve her dream of a movie actress.

Elena Movie

Petra Costa sought several sources to find out what happened to Elena. Recordings, diaries, reports and home movies are used to tell the story, with Petra narrating off. The film is the result of an investigation carried out by the director to find out more about a person so dear, that she knew almost nothing. The narrative manages to create a suspense atmosphere, building an emotional tension until the end.

Even though Elena’s fate is implicit, the weight of the news is still a shock, bringing with it immense sadness. The sentimental value invested in this film is extremely honest and makes anyone empathize with the director and her family.

The composition of the images and the soundtrack complement each other in a poetic way, creating beauty in the tragedy and paying homage to the memory of Petra’s sister. The song, by The Mamas and the Papas, illustrates the film’s intention for the director’s sister. The music resembles the story of the film, in that it is a work dedicated to someone very special who is far away, while it is played during the beginning and end of the film, to symbolize the sentimental value put.

Original audio recordings are used to contextualize Elena’s first reactions and her excitement for this new world. They are also elements that explain the feelings of her family and Petra. In some places, her mother appears saying what happened, giving the viewer a wide view of the before and after of what happened. Although it seems slow, the director did it intentionally to allow time for reflection and to create a better emotional understanding of the events.

It was not an easy task for the director, as it requires a lot of courage for a person to speak openly about the topic of suicide, especially when it is a loved one. In that respect alone, admiration for Petra Costa is worthwhile. Perhaps the reason is to fight depression within, the same that took Elena.

Throughout her life, she was compared to her sister for her physical appearance. Petra also became an actress, like Elena, and soon a filmmaker. He could assume that he would have the same fate as her. In the end, the director made this documentary to understand someone who has never really known and confess their fears so that it will not be consumed by them. It was not just a search to find out who Elena Andrade was, but who will be Petra Costa. This creates yet another valid reason to investigate during the film and understand who the deceased actress was and what differentiates her from the director.

One of the final scenes is Petra accepting the pain, symbolized by floating in the waters of memory and letting it flow. The soundtrack illustrates this transition, with the lyrics talking about changing the individual, sick for love, to water so that he can heal and have a clear conscience. Not only does she appear floating, but also her mother and other versions of the director, with one of them appearing to be Elena herself.

In the narration, Petra says that her sister is no longer a pain, but a constant memory, meaning that she finally accepted what happened and the feeling of guilt is gone. It is one of the most poetic and touching moments in the film.

In conclusion, it is a story of love, loss, sadness and personal search. It is a love of art and the people around you. Petra Costa, through this work, can get to know her sister and herself better.

Most biographical tales tend to be self-centered and focusing more on the things the main character did directly, but the film focuses broadly. It is a very honest testimony, full of sentimental value and will definitely make you want to cry and reflect. It was one Petra’s story for Elena.

Synopsis and trailer for

When traveling to New York, Elena follows the dream of becoming a movie actress and leaves, in Brazil, a childhood lived in hiding, due to the military dictatorship implanted in the country, and also the younger sister, Petra, only seven years old. Two decades later, Petra, already an actress, embarks for New York after her sister. In his search, Petra only has a few clues, such as letters, diaries and home movies. She ends up walking in her sister’s steps until she finds her in an unexpected place.


Original title:
Duration: 82 minutes
Launch: May 10, 2013
Distributor: Space Movies
Directed by: Petra Costa
Classification: 12 years
Genre: Documentary
Country of origin: Brazil