A slim relationship between two male adolescents blossoms just in time.
Two boys on the edge of adulthood find themselves exploring their relationship. This is how the film describes itself, and it does exactly that. Directors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, sharing their feature-length debut, promise nothing more and nothing less. Anything more would evade our interest, and anything less can only elude to more. The aphorism “less is more” has never been more appropriate or even appealing. The film tends to sit on the shore and could easily be blown away, but the careful layering that builds on recounting old memories and building new beginnings is enough to surf a sea of tender waves. It is light, and light works for communicating this story.
The two boys are closer to adulthood than the naivety that possesses most teenagers. Martin (Mateus Almada) and Tomaz (Maurício Barcellos) both loom under an air of sadness, as it is clear that something is missing in their lives. They have reached an age where life suddenly gains authenticity, and one has to compensate by widening their eyes a little. Martin suggests Tomaz spend the weekend with him in an attempt to reawaken their relationship. However, the primary reason for the outing is for Martin to carry out a request from his father that involves a deceased grandparent. Any more information than this really becomes irrelevant. The family scenario is non-functional and the little aid it provides to the story is in highlighting the somewhat despairing tone of the whole piece. It even becomes melancholic, as desperation for something new hangs from the eyelids of these characters. It is the perfect launching point for an exploration into sexuality.
Once the feelings begin to blossom, then the film does become more optimistic and defines the agenda with more clarity. Unfortunately, the nature of such meditative and passive cinema can easily lose traction. The irony is that, once rolling off their last credit, these films actually hold an abundance of traction. The relationship is so introspective that revisiting the ambiguity and trying to discover what these characters are really thinking, or what it was that made them act in one way over another, is the only way to serve justice to the material. This is a tie of thought-provoking cinema—but not of the disquieting kind, such as a Michael Haneke film—rather the contrary, perhaps in line with the delicacy of Olivier Assayas or Claire Denis. This ‘cinema of introspection’ comes from a reverent way of working with non-actors, or those lacking experience, which often results in a more still and slight performance. This kind of performance allows space for an audience to think and works to the advantage of this pre-mature indie.
The most entertaining part of the film is the scene that literally has the most going on. It begins with a male guest recounting a horrendously embarrassing tale of a drunken endeavor and ends with everyone having sex, except for Tomaz who can’t yet relinquish a bi-curiosity for women. In between, there is everything you’d expect from spin-the-bottle to faces exchanging great big grins. Most importantly, Tomaz takes a dare and ends up dying his hair blue—embodying, on the level of allegory, Martin’s missing self from the previously told story of the lifeguard incident wherein the blue flag means “lost child found.” These symbolic gestures are in motion throughout, but they occsasionaly only seem to arise by accident, as according to the directors, they were not aware of the raucous blue hair that was to be cast upon Léa Seydoux as Emma in Blue Is the Warmest Color. I dare say it is becoming a rather fond look!
The ending features Martin striding out toward the sea and breaking into the waves, it is a beautiful sequence that is almost directly reminiscent of Antoine escaping the work camp and charging down the beach at the end of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. However, the cause behind Martin’s quest is entirely different and left largely anonymous. Felipe Puperi’s lingering score of chimes and long notes builds and echoes the hard-angled facial expression of Martin, which could suggest a far less appetizing outcome. João Gabriel de Queiroz never overexposes his shots and sticks to minimal framing, revealing nothing that isn’t in close relation to the characters. There is no shortage of watchful close-ups, but any character/actor worth watching deserves every moment they can get. It can feel awkward—but only because what we are watching is intended to be awkward. Any theme of self-discovery needs a deliverance of stubbornness.
Despite appearing rather empty on first sighting, if you let it, this film can deliver a powerful message. Let your wishes be free, and by the power of your own will, take the chance. And if all else fails, then you can start over again. It isn’t too constructive, but nothing in life ever seems to be. If you are a young male alone in this world that enjoys reflecting on desires, listening to the seashore, and watching beautiful independent films, then you categorically must see this film.