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Friday, August 21, 2015

HOJE EU QUERO VOLTAR SOZINHO / THE WAY HE LOOKS (2014)

Disarming teen coming-of-age pic from Brazil about a platonic guy & gal twosome whose friendship is disrupted by the cute new boy in their class. The twist is that the guy’s been blind since birth and the girl, who’s long had an unspoken crush on him, finds she’s attracted to this new boy with his mop of black curls. Or is she jealous that her BFF seems to favor his new friend. Sounds awfully cute, but writer/director Daniel Ribeiro handles all the high school trials, tribulations & misdirected crushes with a light touch. And never tips into blind-boy bathos to show how tough & lonely things can get when you try to reach out to someone who literally might not be there, or in being a sightless rebellious teenage smart-ass to overprotective, hovering parents. Heartwarming stuff, winning without being sappy; no small achievement. Yet, there’s a built-in problem here. Built-into the DVD, that is! It’s Ribeiro’s own two-reel ‘sampler’ version of the same story (made in 2010 with the same three principals) which is, in almost every way, the stronger piece. Shot in the old squarish Academy Ratio (though probably cropped down to show at 1.85:1), it’s a better visual fit for this story then the feature’s WideScreen frame. There’s a similar fade on the three teens, each four years less vulnerable. And the missing schoolyard bullying & parental misunderstandings puts useful blinders on the action, concentrating focus. Probably, the only notable loss from the full-length pic is a neatly played shaving scene between Father & blind son. It’s paradoxical, but at five times the length (96" vs 17") something’s been lost. (It's the two-reel short with the slightly different title: EU NÃO QUERO VOLTAR SOZINHO/I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK ALONE that earns our Recommended label.)

DOUBLE-BILL: André Téchiné’s WILD REEDS/’94 remains the modern touchstone for this kind of story.

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