The Way He Looks
Opens Fri., Nov. 7 at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated. 95 minutes.
Leo, from Sao Paulo, is 15-ish, and has the usual 15-ish worries to deal with. In ascending order of frustration: social drinking, bullying classmates, finding his first kiss, and craving more independence from his overprotective parents, even to the point of looking into exchange-student programs. He’s blind, which complicates things, but not half as much as the arrival of new student Gabriel, a curly-haired, Belle-and-Sebastian-loving DJ who inspires crushes right and left and even gets between Leo and his BFF Giovana.
The drama in The Way He Looks is all about Who Likes Who; the momentousness of the shifting hints, misunderstandings, revelations, and traumas are written (by director Daniel Ribeiro) and played in a way that feels true to (what I recall of) 15-itude. Also perfectly plausible is the gradual development of Leo and Gabriel’s relationship; unlike a lot of gay coming-of-age dramas, it doesn’t at all read like a kind of wish-fulfillment retro-fantasy of how the filmmaker wanted his own coming-out romance to have played out. Actor Ghilherme Lobo is apparently not blind, but thoroughly convinced me; he plays Leo without an atom of camp, nor does Fabio Audi as Gabriel.
Most fun of all in this charmer, Brazil’s nominee for the 2014 Foreign-Language Oscar: The soundtrack, from Bowie’s “Modern Love” to Arvo Part’s Spiegel im spiegel, is delicious. I have no idea how Ribeiro got ahold of my iPod.