Critics Consensus

Mysterious and visually striking, Tabu rewards audiences' patience with a swooning romance shot with experimental flair.



Total Count: 58


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,730
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Movie Info

Acclaimed director Miguel Gomes returns with a sumptuous, eccentric two-part tale centered on Aurora, shown first as an impulsive, cantankerous elderly woman in present-day Lisbon. When Aurora is hospitalized, she sends her neighbor, Pilar, to pass word of her grave condition to Gian Luca, a man of which no one has ever heard her speak. Pilar's quest to fulfill her friend's wish transports us to Africa fifty years earlier, before the start of the Portuguese Colonial War. We see Aurora again, this time as the gorgeous, smoldering wife of a wealthy young farmer, involved in a forbidden love affair with Gian Luca, her husband's best friend. Their moving, poetic tale is conveyed through the older Gian Luca's suave voiceover, combined with the lush, melodious sounds of its heady, tropical setting, peppered with a soundtrack of Phil Spector songs. -- (C) Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Tabu

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (51) | Rotten (7)

  • It takes a while to get to the meat of the movie, but it's well worth the wait.

    Apr 5, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • It almost seems a parody of willfully obscure art-house fare. Yet it has an undertow that sucks you in as often as it strands you back on shore.

    Feb 14, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • A kind of jigsaw puzzle, spiced up with references to "White Mischief," "Out of Africa" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," that will frustrate some audiences and fascinate others.

    Feb 7, 2013 | Rating: 3/4
  • The audience is left to imagine much of the story, though it is clear it involves love, betrayal, guilt, regret and a recurring crocodile.

    Jan 24, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Portuguese director Miguel Gomes' latest film moves through different styles and eras, and proves that shooting in black and white is as versatile as it ever was.

    Dec 28, 2012 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Few films are this smart about subtly couching their allegorical aspirations within more straightforward narratives; fewer still are able to do so with such energetically inventive virtuoso style.

    Dec 27, 2012 | Rating: 9.5/10 | Full Review…

    Ian Buckwalter

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Tabu

  • Apr 14, 2014
    A beautiful dicotomy of visual poetry and lyricism that evokes powerful feelings of nostalgia, romance and emotional connection to the irrational passions of the characters and an exotic connection to foreign lands, <i>Tabu</i> shows an impeccable versatility from the scope of Miguel Gomes, and the final product is a marvel to behold and seems like a film made by two entirely different directors. The second half particularly shares an important number of silent cinema traits, from the filming style to the reactions and physiognomy of the characters, which irremediably forces us to think about Murnau's legendary art pieces. With a great score and soundtrack and an expert cinematography, we are taken to two different worlds, not only separated by distance but also by time, inviting us to share the feelings evoked by the distant images and the voiceover guiding us to build an own judgment. I am a sucker for this kind of dramas which places two white (most of the times wealthy) characters that are in love with each other put against the backdrop of a distant native territory while facing their own romantic impulses. Yet, Gomes allows the story to flow smoothly and takes the appearance of a humble love letter rather than a Hollywood melodrama, therefore surpassing any of the prolonged epic romances that Meryl Streep had during the 80s and 90s, including Africa. Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, <i>Tabu</i> revives your classic story set in foreign lands as a tribute to the work of an old German master through what has been mentioned above: visual poetry and lyricism. For some odd reason, this feels much more like the product of Latin America during the 60s. 83/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 27, 2013
    With a gorgeous black-and-white cinematography and an impressive thematic rigor, this is a welcome surprise of tremendous poetry, a film that confronts frustration and memory as a lyrical homage to silent movies accompanied by a haunting narration.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 03, 2013
    After a lonely old woman dies in Lisbon, her ex-lover tells of their tempestuous affair in colonial Africa in a dialogue-free flashback. The second half of the film is a stylistically appealing melodrama, but the first hour is slow, emotionally flat, and basically unnecessary.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 06, 2013
    "Tabu" starts with Pilar(Teresa Madruga), a middle aged woman, watching a period piece about a tropical explorer who kills himself after being confonted by a ghost. In real life, she is stood up at the Lisbon airport by a young Polish woman she was hoping to host. That leaves her plenty of time to cope with Aurora(Laura Soveral), her elderly neighbor, after Santa(Isabel Cardoso), Aurora's maid, alerts her to her going to a casino where she promptly loses all of her money before possibly pawning her furs for a return trip. Pilar is in charge because Aurora's grown daughter made only a hasty visit when she returned to Portugal for the holidays to visit her husband's family. "Tabu" is a beguiling allegory about how Portugal deals, or does not deal with, its colonial past, as the past seems insistent on returning to haunt the present. For example, Aurora is not merely going senile but becoming her younger self again.(That might explain a crocodile making an appearance in both the prologue and the second half. Or maybe the director just likes crocodiles.) By contrast, Santa and Pilar seem intent on breaking such a cycle; Santa by reading 'Robinson Crusoe' while Pilar takes up various forms of activism. As time moves day by day in the present and by the month in the past, both have a lovely colorless dreamlike intensity while the past has sound effects, musical numbers but no dialogue. At least in Portugal, they take down their Christmas decorations in a timely fashion.
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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