The Way He Looks
Charming Brazilian coming-of-age drama from director Daniel Ribeiro
The familiar growing pains of adolescence are captured from a fresh perspective in The Way He Looks, an unassuming but sweetly engaging coming-of-age drama that serves as Brazil's contender for the forthcoming Best Foreign Language Film Oscar tussle. Set in Sao Paulo and adapted from writer-director Daniel Ribeiro's 2010 short I Don't Want to Go Back Alone, it gently explores a teenage friendship and the way it is challenged by the arrival of a provocative outsider.
Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) is a blind teenager, protected by his parents, bullied by his classmates and comforted by the support of Giovana (Tess Amorim). They both yearn for a first kiss and a little more excitement in their lives. When Gabriel (Fabio Audi) joins the class, the two boys become inseparable, pushing a jealous Giovana to the sidelines. Gabriel opens up the world to Leonardo as he takes him to the cinema and to watch a lunar eclipse, whispering a commentary in his ear to bring the events alive. As the friendship deepens, Leonardo is encouraged to test the boundaries of his independence.
A sincere, well-intentioned drama, The Way He Looks may be a little too determined to ensure that everything turns out for the best. There are reservations about exactly what Gabriel might see in Leonardo, and Amorim is lumbered with an underwritten sulky best pal role. If you can set aside those problems, then the film's sunny disposition and affirmative message are very appealing and only the coldest heart could resist rooting for the two boys to find their happy ending. You also suspect that it will make a great springboard for schools seeking to discuss issues of teenage sexuality, disability and prejudice.
Selected release from Fri 24 Oct.