Movie Review: ‘The Way He Looks’ Is A Grounded Look At The Basic Challenge Of Adolescence

Greetings again from the darkness. This is Brazil’s official entry for the 2015 Academy Awards, and it’s the feature film debut of writer/director Daniel Ribeiro. With some similarities to Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962), it’s a coming-of-age story focused on the adolescent desire for independence, and the awkwardness and curiosity associated with first love.

As the film opens, we meet best friends Leonardo (Ghiherme Lobo) and Giovani (Tess Amorim) as they lazily chat while hanging out by the swimming pool. Their innocent discussion about romance and a first kiss bring to light the naivety of their age and situation. Giovani carries a torch for Leo, but he is clueless to her desire. His blindness since birth is a major reason, but the arrival of new student Gabriel (Fabio Audi) slowly uncovers another obstacle to any future romantic link for Gi and Leo.

To his credit, Mr. Ribeiro never emphasizes Leonardo’s handicap and instead allows the three teenagers to struggle through daily existence riding the roller coaster of emotions so typical for the age. Sure, Leo gets bullied a bit at school by the insensitive jerks we all know so well, but he struggles more with his overprotective mother who has yet to come to grips with her son’s maturity and desire for the next level of independence. The real core of the story involves the fine line between fragility and strength of friendship, as well as the realization of one’s sexuality. These issues are handled expertly and without sermon or grandstanding.

The film has been exceptionally well received at LGBT Film Festivals, and has crossover appeal for those interested in a grounded look at the basic challenges of adolescence.

Playing at the Angelika Dallas and other select cities.

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