Taking a Look at “The Way He Looks”

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.

– curlyfrypoutine

Works Cited:

“The Film.” The Way He Looks. Lacuna Filmes, 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.thewayhelooks.com/#!about/c10fk&gt;.

“The Way He Looks.” Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com, Inc., 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1702014/&gt;.

The Way He Looks. Perf. Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim. Vitrine Films, 2014. Film.

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4 comments

  1. 4pce · February 20, 2015

    I really appreciated your analysis of the depiction of the boys’, Leo and Gabriel, relationship within the film. The fact Leo’s blindness and desire for independence drove the action rather than the boy’s homosexual relationship prevents it from becoming a “gay” film and steers it more into mainstream cinema as a coming of age story with a love interest that happens to be of the same gender. In fact by following this typical linear plot line found in many Hollywood films, The Way He Looks further normalizes its subjects and characters by having them be just as relatable as characters audiences are experienced in viewing.
    The continuity of this normalization might not work however with your suggestion of a more sexual relationship between the boys. This is based on the sexual experience of themselves, their peers, and how the society they live in views sex. At the beginning of the film it is made clear that Leo is very sexually inexperienced, only beginning to kiss. Leo is also not alone as Giovana also complains she has never kissed anyone at the start of the movie, and this level of experience is reflected in their peers as well. In addition, the narrative takes place in Brazil, which sports a predominantly Catholic population with therefor relatively strict values regarding premarital sex. If Leo and Gabriel were to go past the sexual levels of the majority of their peers within the film it might make their homosexual relationship appear hypersexualized and therefore abnormal in comparison to other heterosexual relationships.

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    • curlyfrypoutine · February 22, 2015

      What you said about the increased sexuality ruining the normalization of the queer relationship is very true, I hadn’t thought of it that way! I was attempting to compare “The Way He Looks” to other mainstream romance movies that are often hypersexualized, but you’re right in the sense that this movie appears to be more realistic with the sexuality of high school aged teens, and more sexual encounters between Leo and Gabriel wouldn’t fit with the tone of the movie.

      Like

  2. thelazyriser · February 23, 2015

    I love your analysis of this movie! I agree that in most love stories that feature a sexual minority the main thing highlighted is the fact that they are a sexual minority, however I think it incredible that they are able to focus the plot on two people falling in love because thats how it should be. Movies that are based on that fact that a lead character is a sexual minority often have good intentions of normalizing movies with sexual minorities, however by emphasizing that the lead characters are different then the common heterosexual leads that we often see in the movies today, makes it seem like its a very big deal to cast characters who are not the cultural norm, leading to people viewing things that are counter-cultural as abnormal. I also liked how you highlighted the importance of gender spectrum and not simply labeling people, but recognizing that gender is much more complicated than many assume at first glance. Over all this was a very interesting blog and I really hope to have the opportunity to watch this film in the near future!
    -thelazyriser

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  3. lazybreakfast95 · February 24, 2015

    Much like yourself, I was very interested in attending this movie but ended up choosing another instead. I enjoyed reading your review because I was able to learn a little more about the film other then what the trailer taught me. I enjoyed how you included comments on the soundtrack of the film as well as the cinematography work. It helps picture what some of the scenes might look like.

    I also like how you say this movie does not bring attention to the fact that is is a homosexual relationship. It seems as though film producers did a good job at not emphasizing the homosexuality because like you said it makes queer relationships seem abnormal. I would be very interested to see how Leonardo and Gabriel engage with females when they try out the gender spectrum. From what you say this movie is an excellent example of gender spectrum because of their intent to try out relationships with females. Would you say Leonardo experiences oppression based on his blindness? Or do people just “feel bad” for him? Oppression can be experienced by many people for something they can’t control. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

    Overall, sounds like a great film! May have to watch it for myself in the future!

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