After viewing the trailer in class, I had high expectations going to see The Way He Looks, the film based off of I Don’t Want To Back Alone, a short film created by the same director and producer combo: Brazil native Daniel Ribeiro and Diana Almeida from Mozambique. The film’s website boasts 31 different awards and a worldwide release to 22 countries.
So, on Saturday, January 31st, I journeyed down to The Screening Room to see if The Way He Looks would hold up to my expectations. The film was being shown as part of Reel Out Film Festival. I sat down in the second row of the small theatre, which was quickly filling up with other people around my age. As soon as the film started, I regretted not sitting in the very front row, since it was at times hard to read the English subtitles at the bottom of the screen. However, I tried to ignore this extremely minor inconvenience and enjoy the film.
The Way He Looks is a coming of age story following blind teenager, Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), as he grapples with gaining more independence from both his parents and his best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim). Leo’s world is turned upside down when he meets Gabriel (Fabio Audi), a new student, who he immediately connects with. The film explores his relationship with Gabriel as well as his friendship with Giovana all while Leo deals with the taunting from his classmates.
Let’s start off with what I really liked about the film. First of all, it was beautifully scored, including songs by Belle and Sebastian and The National alongside classical music (Leonardo’s favourite genre). The cinematography was also quite stunning, exploring the boundaries of film with quirky camera work. An example of this is the precise and fixed birds’ eye view shot of Leo, Giovana, and Gabriel by Giovana’s pool; a shot that is repeated throughout the film.
But my favourite thing about the film was the freshness of the storyline. To me, The Way He Looks is a love story between two boys, but it doesn’t try to bring attention to the fact that it is a homosexual relationship. Many queer love stories (such as Brokeback Mountain or Lilies) often emphasize the homosexuality, which is important in some regards, but it also makes queer relationships seem abnormal. The Way He Looks did a terrific job of balancing between showing how homosexuals are disadvantaged in society due to unfair gender stereotypes and biases but also portraying the relationship in a very real form. The film also demonstrates an understanding of the gender spectrum, as both Leonardo and Gabriel are shown considering a relationship with a girl – Leonardo wanting to kiss Marta at a party, and Gabriel flirting with Karina on the school camping trip. Although these scenarios can be interpreted as the boys being “confused about their sexuality,” I think that it serves to show that sexuality is a spectrum, not black and white.
The Way He Looks also deals with the intersectionality of its characters and how it affects them. Leonardo is not only homosexual, but blind, allowing the film to comment on ablebodied privilege. The race of the characters can also be pointed out – they are all Latin American – however, the movie does not address many problems of race, other than portraying the US as a “safe haven” for Leonardo when he decides he wants to go there to escape from his overprotective parents.
I want to take a look at the final scene in the film (this section will include spoilers, of course) – the pivotal moment when Leonardo is ready to let the world know about his feelings for Gabriel. As Leo, Gabriel, and Giovana are walking home after school, Fabio, the boy who leads others in bullying Leonardo for the entire movie, mocks Leonardo for holding Gabriel’s arm, an action that throughout the story was more for utility than romance. They stop walking, and the next shot is a close up as Leonardo tentatively slides his hand down Gabriel’s arm so that they are holding hands. Fabio’s friends then laugh, but more so at Fabio than Leonardo and Gabriel. I thought this scene was a perfect ending to the film, again serving to normalize homosexual relationships since Leonardo and Gabriel’s classmates are not shown teasing Leonardo for being in a relationship with a boy.
There are a few things that I would have liked to see in the film that was not brought up at all. Mainly, it would have been interesting to see how Leonardo’s parents would react to him being in a relationship with a boy. Leonardo and Gabriel’s relationship is also quite desexualized (they are only shown kissing, although Gabriel does also stare at a naked Leo in the shower), which displays that the filmmakers think that audiences are not quite ready to see homosexual relationships in the explicit way that heterosexual relationships are portrayed in the movies. I understand that both Leonardo and Gabriel are young, but I think the director/writer could have pushed their relationship a wee bit further.
Overall, I can’t think of many ways in which The Way He Looks could be improved. It was a cute and quirky film about extremely loveable characters that find love while navigating the maze that is adolescence. I would extremely recommend watching it – I’ll definitely be watching it again, as well.
“The Film.” The Way He Looks. Lacuna Filmes, 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.thewayhelooks.com/#!about/c10fk>.
“The Way He Looks.” Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com, Inc., 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1702014/>.
The Way He Looks. Perf. Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim. Vitrine Films, 2014. Film.