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Good Manners review - compellingly eerie | reviews, news & interviews

Good Manners review - compellingly eerie

Good Manners review - compellingly eerie

Daring Brazilian film defies genres

Time for a trim: a scene from 'Good Manners'

Stylish, eerie and unexpectedly moving by the time of its apocalyptic finish, the strangely titled Good Manners makes for a genuine celluloid surprise. Written and directed by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, this genre-defying Brazilian film suggests a peculiar amalgam of Angela Carter and Jean Genet, with dollops here and there of The Exorcist and even a brief nod towards Alien.

The pregnant Ana (a sad-eyed Marjorie Estiano) finds herself falling for her baby’s serene-seeming nanny, Clara (a transfixing Isabél Zuaa). That the newborn turns out to be a werewolf sends the São Paulo-set narrative hurtling forward in time to find young Joel (Miguel Lobo) a schoolboy at grievous odds with family, friends, and society – and, crucially, with a self he cannot comprehend. The film is violent where it needs to be but also stealthily affecting and riveting throughout.the mating dance at the heart of 'Good Manners'Essentially a film of two halves, the first part is given over to the gathering mating dance between Ana and Clara (pictured above), the first a wealthy carnivore estranged from her parents, the second an often silently watchful yet alluring presence from a different social background who may know nothing about babies but is alert to her burgeoning sexuality.

A visit to a lesbian bar is followed by the two women tumbling into bed, notwithstanding the suddenly offputting hue of Ana's eyes; a full moon, as one might guess, is on hand. Once the child is born, the film turns into a decidedly unusual love story between a nurse-turned-mother very much by default and a child whom Clara clearly loves, even if the youth's wilder tendencies do occasionally require the otherwise sweet-faced Joel to be chained to the bedpost. 

An unfortunate gesture by a pushy landlady ramps up the horror component of a film that throughout strikes a decided note of sadness. Both Clara and Joel are outsiders in a society to which they don't fully belong, their essential separateness strengthening a bond that finds the two together against the world come the final, quietly revelatory reel. (Well before then, Joel turns into a figure of fear amongst his friends.) The film benefits no end from Zuaa's understated command, even as events career into overdrive, and the shocks are arrived at honestly and without sensationalism. That title, presumably, is meant ironically, since the movie abounds in, um, unusual behaviour throughout. No matter: Good Manners makes for a great midsummer surprise. See it now before Hollywood swoops in for the inevitably cheapened remake. 

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