"The Way He Looks" is one of those feel-good films that will warm your heart and linger with you long after the viewing.
The inspiring film, written and directed by Daniel Ribeiro, opens today at Landmark's Ken Cinema, 4061 Adams Ave. in Kensington. This will be the exclusive showing in San Diego for the Brazilian film that is told in Portuguese with English subtitles.
"The Way He Looks" premiered at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize for best feature film in the Panaroma section and the Teddy Award for best LGBT film. Since then, the film has racked up impressive reviews worldwide.
Brazil has selected this film -- originally titled "Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho" ("Today I Want To Go Back Alone") -- as its entry for nomination as Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.
Set in the sprawling, gritty city of São Paulo, Ribeiro's screenplay is rich and complex. It's about coming of age, bullying, dealing with disability, youthful loneliness and alienation, sexual awakeness, and the challenges of friendship when expectations suddenly change. But it's also about coming out and falling in love, against all odds.
Our handsome young protagonist is Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), who is blind. The teenager is feeling held back by his overbearing mother (Lucia Romano) and, to a less extent, his father (Eucir deSouza). Leo is picked on by the boys in his school, who relentlessly bully him simply for being blind. His best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim), also tries to protect him, and she develops feelings for him that are not reciprocated.
The plot thickens when a curly-headed hunk named Gabriel (Fabio Audi) transfers to their school, and the three become fast friends. But when Leo and Gabriel are thrust together to work on a school project, they grow even tighter. And Gio becomes jealous as she becomes the third wheel in the friendship.
Ribeiro coaxes exquisite performances from his actors, and his plot walks that fine line between drama, romance and erotica. There's a stunning shower scene that is as revealing for its erotic nature as it is for its capturing of sexual awakening.
There's humor and heartbreak, drama and tension, all told in a matter-of-fact style that pulls no punches. In the end, you will fall in love with this movie.