The Way He Looks (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★
Blind teenager Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) longs independence from his parents, classmates, the ennui of the every day. Along with his best and only friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim), he laments over the general lack of excitement of being in high school. Things begin to look up, however, when he meets a new student named Gabriel (Fabio Audi), someone who is unlike the other boys in his class.
“The Way He Looks,” written and directed by Daniel Ribeiro, is an LGBTQ picture that radiates honesty and with that quality it is already lightyears from its contemporaries. It neither relies on overt sexuality to be sexy nor a syrupy romance to get us to invest in the lives of the three Brazilian teenagers. Its approach is simple but effective: it shows the characters’ insecurities, how they deal with their problems, and the reconciliation, if any, that occurs when or if they learn to mature a little bit.
There is an organic feel to the look of the film. It benefits from not one scene being shot in a studio. When we are inside Leo’s house, we notice the decorations on the walls, the knickknacks on the side tables, how lived in it all feels. When a scene is set at school, the floors are not shiny, the desks appear as though they have been used for years, certain corridors look like they need a bit of polishing. Because of its realistic look and feel, it establishes a certain tone—that we are looking at real lives being lived in real places.
Leo’s arguments with his parents, too, are executed with realism. Watching them felt like I was being intrusive at times. The disagreements come across as genuine, from the tone and pitch of their voices to how close they get to one another physically. The words chosen and how they are delivered are not glossy or hyper-articulate. It makes these scenes very relatable and there were a couple of times when I could not help but think back to certain instances when I was upset with my parents after a long day of school.
The friendships among the three are sweet. Throughout the course of the picture, we discover how the dynamics of their relationships work. Sometimes they are fragile but surprisingly strong at times. There is a great metaphor introduced in the middle which involves the sun, the moon, and the earth when an eclipse occurs. Furthermore, there is a theme involving fear of losing a strong connection throughout—whether it be of a long-lasting friendship or a potential romance.
I enjoyed that sometimes it isn’t clear what a character wants exactly. We try to figure it out. Is the truth hidden in behavior? How one looks at another? How one acts when he or she is by herself? That confusion is tackled here in a fresh way. It is essential that it is communicated with clarity. After all, it is a part of being young and still trying to figure out one’s identity.
“Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho” ends right where it should and yet I could not help but want to see more of Leo, Gi, and Gabriel’s lives after it wrapped up. The feeling I had as it finished reminded me of a similar sentiment, somewhere along the lines of saying goodbye to a good friend. You know you’re not going to see this friend for a long time and so a part of you is sad. At the same time, that friendship is very secure so fear is not at all a part of having to step away.