Last week, in my review of my review, I quickly mentioned that “The Way He Looks” was another great recent Brazilian film, and I figured it would be a good idea to talk about it today! Unlike “The Second Mother”, which in my opinion requires at least some knowledge of how things work here in Brazil to be fully enjoyed, “The Way He Looks” is more of a universally relatable film, and seeing as it got a number of awards back in 2014, I though it would be a nice recommendation for you guys!
The movie was initially a short film called “I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone” (which can be watched right here , with subtitles available in many languages!), written and directed by Daniel Ribeiro, that introduced us to the main characters, Leo, Giovana and Gabriel. Leo is a blind teenager who, aside from dealing with the constant bullying from his classmates, also struggles with his feelings for the new student, Gabriel and the jealousy from his friend Giovana. The short film was released in 2010, and received a fair amount of awards and recognition. The film production process is very different here than it is in Hollywood, and filmmakers rely heavily on sponsors and on government funding, so when the feature film was announced in 2012, production has already been happening for the past two years.
“The Way He Looks”, contrary to what you may initially think, is not a sequel to the short film. Instead, it’s a retelling of the same story in a different way. In my opinion, this was a wise decision seeing as the acting in the short film was not very convincing while being extremely necessary to tell a believable story. I should stop right here and say that, as a film student myself, I understand how difficult it is to find good actors and rehearse them to deliver the results you want, especially here in Brazil where the transition between theatre and screen is usually not very smooth. However, watching the feature film, I really felt like the casting directors and the actors made a great effort to deliver all around better results and it showed. Speaking from a technical standpoint, I have really no big things to criticize. The cinematography is beautiful and adds to the narrative, the sound capture is nice and clear (which is something Brazilian movies sometimes struggle with) and I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack choices, which really complimented the moments.
Now, onto the actual narrative! The film talks about a blind teenager, who is in the process of discovering his sexuality, dealing with bullying and struggling to gain more independence from his overbearing parents. The movie manages to deal with all of these sensitive subjects in such a nice and touching manner, while not being romantically cliché, that it’s hard for me to find a less fangirl way to describe it than “hearts in eyes”. Let me explain: as I mentioned in my other review, Brazil has a tendency to make movies that deal with heavier subjects, such as drug trafficking, poverty, violence and such. The other type of movie that is often produced is the kind of comedy that relies on stereotypes and doesn’t bring anything different to the table other than their same old moneymaking formula. As a film student I often find myself missing films that are entertaining, thought provoking while also being aesthetically pleasing. “The Way He Looks”, in my opinion, succeeds in doing just that. The film has its funny and silly moments, but you also form a connection with the main characters and end up caring about what you’re watching. I found it really refreshing to see a teenage relationship being portrayed in a more realistic way, where everything doesn’t go perfectly right, but it also isn’t a Romeo and Juliet kind of situation, which is what we sometimes see in soap operas over here.
Leo’s blindness is also portrayed in such a subtle way. Though the limitations Leo faces in his everyday life are evidenced throughout the narrative, his blindness is never something that defines him, both for himself and for Giovana and Gabriel. His mother, the one who seeks to protect him from the outside world, is usually the one who brings up all the hardship associated with being blind, effectively bringing the outside prejudices to his home.
Even with some weak dialogues along the way, the film does its job of entertaining while not being overly educational, something that would be easy to slip into given the subjects it tackles. You can download a torrent right here and don’t forget to tell me your thoughts.
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