Love stories these days are rarely done right. Obnoxious pop songs and syrupy performances seem to be all the rage and that’s very unfortunate. Heartfelt stories seem to have been replaced by juvenile antics and empty scripts. Luckily, however, there is the occasional romantic film that scores big and hits all the right notes. The new Brazilian gem The Way He Looks is one such film and it is a sweet, tender and genuine coming-of-age tale about three friends and the natural awkwardness that comes with teenhood.
The Way He Looks centers on three teenage friends who all love one another but in slightly different ways. They each have their quirks and they are pretty open and honest with their feelings. There’s Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), a wholesome blind boy who serves as the film’s primary character. There’s Giovana (Tess Amorim), a truthful young lady with tomboy-esque qualities and finally, there’s Gabriel (Fabio Audi), a new kid in school, dream boat and object of everyone’s affection. Over the course of the film, Leonardo and Gabriel develop feelings for one another and the results are cute and heartfelt.
Homosexuality is a topic touched on in film here and there. There are notable works like Brokeback Mountain which delicately showcase gay feelings among two seemingly heterosexual males. The Way He Looks focuses on two teenage boys who, as the film progresses, develop strong emotions for one another and it is handled really, really well. The evolution from friendship to romance is a gradual one and the two actors pull it off with grace and warmth.
The three main actors should all be commended for their work in this film for they each give performances that feel real and at times, tug at the heartstrings. The film often feels like a documentary and this sense of realism only serves to enhance the picture’s quality. Ghilherme Lobo plays blind strongly and he is, indeed, a very gifted actor. His relationship with Gabriel is so realistic and so adorable that this might be one of the better love stories caught on film this year.
If you don’t mind reading subtitles, then The Way He Looks would certainly be your type of film. Even if you do find subtitles annoying, the beauty and intelligence that this film exudes will make you look past the pet peeve of reading while watching a movie. Writer/producer/director Daniel Ribeiro is a triple threat with The Way He Looks and his work here is truly, truly great. As mentioned before, the film looks and feels like a documentary and the world Ribeiro has created is simply sublime.
Spoken in Portuguese, The Way He Looks is one of the best foreign language films of the year. The story is highly relatable and the characters are vivid and extremely likable. Ghilherme Lobo, Tess Amorim and Fabio Audi are all fantastic young actors and they each have brilliant careers ahead of them. Few films manage to leave an indelible impression but The Way He Looks does just that and then some.