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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 7 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 45
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by Gary M. Kramer - SGN Contributing Writer

THE WAY HE LOOKS
SUNDANCE CINEMAS
(A 21+ ONLY VENUE)
Now playing


The sweet and sunny Brazilian romance, The Way He Looks, is writer/director Daniel Ribeiro's feature length version of his excellent 2010 short Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho (I Don't Want to Go Back Alone). This expanded version, easily the feel good film of the year, is one of those rare, happy cases where the feature improves upon the short.

Ribeiro employs the same actors, which benefits The Way He Looks because the three central performers have an established chemistry that is infectious. There is a palpable naturalism in how they interact; viewers believe right away that the lead characters have been friends forever.

Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) is a blind teenager whose bestie, Giovana (Tess Amorim) assists him in school and walks him home. When Gabriel (Fabio Audi) joins their class, he befriends Leo and Gi as she's called. When a class assignment forces Gabriel and Leo to work together, the guys quickly form an intimate bond, which causes Gi to become jealous. In episodes created for the feature, the guys go to the movies together (Gabriel describes the action to Leo); they sneak out late at night to watch an eclipse; and Gabriel teaches the classical music-loving Leo about modern music.

Ribeiro infuses these moments - Leo hugging Gabriel on the bicycle they share, or Gabriel guiding Leo to dance to music - with a tender sexual tension to show how these two teenagers fall in love. The short only had the teens touching hands, or Leo sniffing Gabriel's clothes to create a shorthand for their affection. These expanded episodes serve to magnify the boys' burgeoning desires.

The film's visual cues are also strong. A scene of Leo practicing kissing in the shower expresses the desires he feels but does not dare to express. And this is what makes The Way He Looks so magical; the guys never discuss their emotions, but they are all tactile. When Gabriel plants a kiss on Leo, or the two friends shower together during an overnight class trip - and Gabriel becomes aroused at the sight of Leo naked - the unspoken attraction hangs in the air.

Ribeiro's warm approach to telling Leo's story prompts viewers to want the boys to couple up. Of course, there are subplots that try to keep the guys apart, but they never feel forced. Giovana's jealousy is poignant, and when Leo's classmates mock him - he is tricked at a party during a game of spin the bottle - it is typical of any film in which the Gay kid is 'different.'

Shrewdly, Leo's blindness is never treated as a gimmick in The Way He Looks. His disability is a joke for some of his classmates, but mostly it is an issue for Leo's overprotective mother, who is reluctant to let him attend an overnight class trip, or study abroad. That Gabriel treats Leo the way he would anyone, is refreshing and what makes their relationship even more satisfying.

Ribeiro's highly enjoyable film is so charming, one can forgive its predictability. The Way He Looks is sure to leave a smile in viewers' hearts.

© 2014 Gary M. Kramer,/i>

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