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William Shakespeare opined in Romeo and Juliet, “If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.”
Of course, he also said, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool,” and in the case of the Brazilian film The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho), Shakespeare proves himself the fool, for the young, blind hero of the film finds love standing right next to him, a couple times over.
While The Way He Looks is playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival, far from everyone will be able to catch it there. Thankfully, the film is also out on DVD and streaming on Netflix for those content to see it on a teeny-tiny screen, as opposed to the grand silver screens of Tower City Cinemas.
Writer-director Daniel Ribeiro’s film stars Ghilherme Lobo as Leonardo, a blind teenager going to high school in Brazil. His best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) walks him to and from school every day and acts as his eyes, at the insistence of his arguably overprotective parents.
However, when Gabriel (Fabio Audi) moves to town, he and Leonardo form a fast friendship, despite the obvious desire Giovana has for Leo and Karina (Isabela Guasco) has for Gabriel. As Gabriel and Leo get closer, Giovana gets angry and Karina remains oblivious, thinking she has a shot with Gabriel.
As the four points in this romantic quadrangle move hither and thither, it is never clear whether people seemingly wandering in the dark can find what they are seeking.
The film won awards at the Athens and Berlin International Film Festivals, along with festivals in Guadalajara, Honolulu, LA Outfest, the New York LGBT Film Festival, Rochester ImageOut, the Huelva Latin American Film Festival, San Francisco, Seattle, Skip City and Torino, as well as Best Actor for Ghilherme Lobo from the Sao Paulo Association of Art Critics. That’s in addition to seven other nominations.
Every single award and nomination was deserved. The Way He Looks can give anyone “the feels” without being smarmy, and Ribeiro put together a brilliant cast. The young actors and the mature ones alike are pitch-perfect, natural and convivial.
Leo’s conflicts with his parents are not contrived or forced; at the risk of over-using a word, they felt natural, and the audience can understand both sides of the arguments.
The misunderstandings between the friends feel real, organic, the product of a failure in communication between people who think they know each other completely, as only the young really believe, not realizing the hidden depths that exist in every person’s heart.
The blossoming possibility of a relationship between Leo and Gabriel is handled with the proper amount of eroticism, whimsy, romance and detachment. It is never prurient or inappropriate; it is an expression of the universal dawning of realization, and the start of hope, hope for someone to love, who loves you back.
Simply put, The Way He Looks is a magnificent film.