Finding yourself in your teenage years is a tough enough task when you have all your senses in top working order. For Leonardo however, he has the added complication of being blind. The Way He Looks tells the story of Leonardo’s coming of age when new kid, Gabriel, arrives in his class and the two take to each other almost immediately.
Set in a Brazil largely unfamiliar to those of us whose knowledge of that vast nation comes exclusively from films like City of God or internet videos by Vice or La Blogotheque, The Way He Looks, by contrast, takes place in a very neat and tidy world. The set up and the characters who act it out are very simple, even if the emotions are not, and at times the film feels like an homage to Lukas Moodysson. Like the Swede, director Daniel Ribeiro is concerned with the naturally occurring emotions of his characters rather than the outside influences that often disrupt the lives of children from less stable backgrounds.
There are a number of problems with the screenplay, largely due to its reliance on clichéd characters such as the inexplicably cruel bully kid and the inevitable falling out between the main character and his best friend. Also, about an hour into the film things feel like they’re winding up already as we are quite certain what end point we’re aiming for, so the last thirty or so minutes do drag.
These issues are not over-bearing however, as the writing has a heart to it despite the conventions it relies on, and the actors also manage to transcend the limitations of what they have to work with. The comparison with Moodysson isn’t necessarily favourable to The Way He Looks, as the Swede allows the life and relationships of his characters express themselves more naturally than Ribeiro does here. Nonetheless, while not the most ground-breaking piece of cinema to come out of Brazil, The Way He Looks is an honest and endearing look at the adolescent desire to fit in and be loved. Released exclusively at the IFI from 24 October 2014. Watch the trailer here.