By Emma Silverthorn @HouseOf_Gazelle
Daniel Ribeiro’s acutely observed coming of age tale The Way He Looks is a tender-hearted and convincing portrait of this classic genre, with the added twist that it’s also a coming out tale. Sao Paulo based Leonardo is an unusual teenager, only listening to classical music, avoiding parties and having just one very, close female friend. However, like most teenagers, Leonardo craves more independence than his parents are willing to give, his burgeoning desire for autonomy being accelerated by new boy in class Gabriel (Fabio Audi). Plus Leonardo has the added adversity of congenital blindness, on top of these usual difficulties inherent to adolescence. Leonardo’s disability fuelling his mother’s anxiety and consequent tendency to over-protect him.
Ghilherme Lobo is exceptional as Leonardo, so much so I had to Google whether he was actually blind (he’s not); it turns out he’s also generally a dancer rather than actor. Tess Amorhim as best friend Giovana also gives a lovely performance.
This is not a film of explosive conflicts, Ribeiro choosing to focus on the seemingly small minutiae of the everyday. But those themes of first love, the desire for more freedom, jealousy and boredom are all charmingly and naturalistically rendered. The film brought to mind 2014’s excellent Swedish drama We Are The Best. Ribeiro highlighting those situations that as an adult seem trivial but at fifteen can feel devastating; public dancing, the awkwardness of spin the bottle, your best friend forgetting to invite you to the cinema. These being so expertly drawn that watching you feel again the intensity of that early shame, fear and rejection. An extremely impressive handling of youth and sexual awakening and an impressive debut all round.
The Way He Looks is out on DVD Bluray and On Demand from Monday February 9th.