sat 15/06/2024

The Way He Looks | reviews, news & interviews

The Way He Looks

The Way He Looks

Gentle Brazilian gay adolescent drama rings stronger than its story suggests

Triangle of relationships: the three principle players of 'The Way He Looks'

Falling in love for the first time is one of the standard tropes of the movies. Brazilian director Daniel Ribeiro gives it a new twist by making the teenage hero of his The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) blind, and realising in the course of the film that he’s gay.

It’s a modestly stated drama that won prizes at this year’s Berlinale, that speaks wider than its subject matter suggests. Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) has been blind from birth, so he never sees what we, the viewer, implicitly see: his Sao Paolo surrounding world, divided between home and school. What then is the exact basis of his attraction – a voice, a sense of company? His best friend is the sassy Giovana (Tess Amorim), who looks after him at school where his blindness is a subject of occasional fun for some of the other teenagers (there’s an agonizing party scene which shows just how easy that is to do).

Ribeiro allows gestures to speak for themselves

When a new kid from out of town, Gabriel (Fabio Audi, pictured with Lobo, below right) joins their class, this steady boy-girl friendship becomes more complicated: the balance shifts to a trio, and the newcomer gradually assumes roles that Giovana has taken for granted. At home Leonardo’s parents seem over-protective of their son, checking he’s arrived everywhere he’s supposed to be with an assiduity that becomes restrictive. In turn that makes him follow a path towards independence, as he investigates the possibility of taking a solo exchange trip abroad.

Ribeiro developed the film from an earlier short, I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone (winner three years ago of an Iris Prize), which he made as an effective pilot for the feature. He’s changed part of the story here, but kept the same three actors from that one: though they’re now a bit older than their teenage years, it doesn’t show. He catches the details of everyday life with affection, but the real insight is into the fluctuating emotions between the main protagonists, as misunderstandings occur, all the more pronounced when one of them literally can’t see what’s happening around him.

There’s some nice restrained comedy too in the way the two youths come to realize their feelings for each other, and coming out for Leonardo seems to bring few complexities. Giovana reacts to her friend’s revelation that he has feelings for Gabriel rather easily, even perhaps glad to readjust their relationship into that of GBF. Leonardo’s revelation of his feelings to his family is left for the future, but there’s a welcome lack of angst in his realization of his orientation (no less welcome is the fact that The Way He Looks is nominated as Brazil’s entry for the best foreign language film category).

Ribeiro allows gestures to speak for themselves, with a lovely late moment played out in front of the school teasers in which the way the two young men hold hands changes from being the guiding hand of the sighted leading the blind into the clasp of partners. I can't guess for a moment how the musical numbers by Belle & Sebastian made it into this Brazilian context, but they’re as right for the soundtrack as can be. The film’s final scene is as powerful as anything that’s come before: Leonardo’s riding a bike, Gabriel perched behind on him, giving directions. It’s a rich metaphor: for the fact that freedom comes with trust, and that falling in love is all about heading out into a darkness where, if all goes well, you’re welcomed, and the journey becomes a shared one. Ribeiro may have made a “small” film, but the quiet wonder that The Way He Looks articulates speaks far beyond such categories. It will be interesting to see what he turns his attention to next.

Overleaf, watch the trailer for The Way He Looks





Ribeiro may have made a 'small' film, but the quiet wonder that 'The Way He Looks' articulates speaks far beyond such categories


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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