Brian Formo’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'm hovering above the reviews here wondering why I wasn't lifted into rapture. I love the use of blue. I felt so much at the beginning of this film with the house of women; the housekeeper talking aloud to the cat as she prepares fish, the daughter rustling her mother out of bed with bike grease on her cheek, the mother turning out the power and emerging with a lantern, the conversation with her sister, Laura, over brandy and cigarettes. I loved the beginning of this movie so much. It was so warm and full of love for these women and how they existed with each other.
The men who arrive are not worthy of sharing screen time with these women or the blue hues; they are but stiff starch applied to a breezy sun-dried sheet from the clothesline. Robert, as played by Phillip Spinelli, is one of the worst performances I've ever witnessed as the washed ashore angel; he is so stiff and I am unconvinced by the household's immediate affection for him. The pirates who seek him are laughable. How dare Antoine take so much screen time to talk bad about Sara when we could just have another Sara-Laura conversation of depression, loss, and young love.
The (real) assassination of the Palestinian Liberation Officer as a background story and how that fits is unclear to me. But it does seem to fit that Hovering Over the Water is the talky cousin of Spain's The Spirit of the Beehive and Italy's Teorema. Both political movies, anti their government. I do know that Portugal was newly socialist around the time this was made and that they were ashamed of the PLO's assassination, having invited him to a summit after Australia would not take them; I know that Portugal has aligned itself with Arab countries in attempts for peace with Israel. But I'm not sure how it fits with this story. At all.
I feel unfortunate that I am not hovering over this film but instead slowly sank like a stone. It is very pretty to look at. And I loved its starting point. "We'll just have to learn to use up the rest of the unhappiness." I would have rather seen that because the void that was "filled" by Robert felt forced; the squarest peg.
I am, of course, open to comments on what I missed whilst sinking and others soared.