Friday, June 12, 2015

A Wolf at the Door [2014] (orig. O Lobo Atrás Da Porta) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
Adorocinema listing* (B. Carmelo) review*
A Folha de S. Paulo (A. Agabiti Fernandez) review* (L. Ramos) review*
O Globo (D. Schenker) review*

APUM (A. Núñez-Torrón Stock) review*
ChicagoTribune (K. Turan) review* (M. D'Angelo) review (P. Villaça) review
Slant Magazine (D. Costa) review
Twitch (C. Whale) review

A Wolf at the Door [2014] (orig. O Lobo Atrás Da Porta) [2014] [IMDb] [AC]* (screenplay written and directed by Fernando Coimbra [IMDb] [AC]) that played at the 2015 Chicago Latino Film Festival in may and more recently had a weeklong run at Facets Multimedia here in Chicago, is very, very well conceived, well shot, and again extremely well acted Brazilian domestic thriller / police story that plays on every parent's worst nightmare:

Set entirely in a sprawling / teeming, working-class part of Rio de Janeiro, Sylvia (played by Fabiula Nascimento [IMDB] [AC]*) an utterly average working-class presently unemployed housewife, comes to pick-up her cute-as-a-button, yet again, utterly average 7 or 8 year old daughter from school only to find that her daughter's teacher (played by Karine Teles [IMDb] [AC]*), haggard with a typically overcrowded yet still enthusiastic class of 3rd graders, had already handed her over to a "Shiela" who had introduced herself to her as "Sylvia's neighbor" coming by to pick her up as a favor to her (Sylvia).

Who the heck was "Shiela"?  Well, the little girl clearly knew, recognized and liked/trusted her.  The teacher, realizing, now, that OMG (!) she did something still _potentially_ terribly wrong, defends herself saying: "Honest to God, sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph... I thought nothing of it.  Your criança (child) clearly knew her."   But Sylvia knew no Shiela ...

... 'Cept, Sylvia did quickly have someone in mind who could have done this -- Rosa (played magnificently by Leandra Leal [IMDb] [AC]*) a chatty, fairly good-looking "friend" of sorts who had come into her family's life in a somewhat odd (and now looking-back-at-it suspicious) way some time back.  Further, Sylvia did have her suspicions about her husband Bernardo (played by Milhem Cortaz [IMDb] [AC]*) a Rio de Janeiro municipal bus driver cheating on her.

So ... Bernardo gets called into the school, as do the the police.  Bernardo quickly admits to the police official (played by Juliano Cazarré [IMDb] [AC]*) present that, yes, he had _had_ an affair with said Rosa, and that he had received a strange somewhat threatening phone call to meet her at a train station "at 7 PM" that evening.  So he along with (plainclothes) police go to said station to see if she shows.  She does not, BUT ... of course Bernardo knows where she lives.  So, in relatively short order, Rosa gets brought in to the police for questioning.

But ... SHE has a story as well: She tells the police that YES she did pick the girl up at the school, BUT she did so at the behest of another women, named Beti (played by Thalita Carauta [IMDb] [AC]*) who was upset AT SYLVIA because SHE THOUGHT that SYLVIA was sleeping with her (Beti's) husband.  Rosa said that she gave the girl over to her and that Beti was just holding her for a while to scare Sylvia (and even Bernardo) straight.

Sigh / okay ... the police decide to follow-up on Rosa's story, 'cept ... it turns out that there's NO "BETI."  Rosa gets called into the station again, and here the Rio de Janeiro police official makes a rather remarkable statement/threat to her:

"Look Senhora, we looked for Beti, and there appears to be no "Beti."  So stop wasting our time.  Understand that yes, we (the Rio de Janeiro police) don't necessarily have the best of reputations, and yes, _every so often_ we end up beating-up someone who proves to be _completely innocent_ and THEN SOME DEPUTY FROM THE LEGISLATURE, OR SOME NGO, OR EVEN AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ends up coming down here and gets all upset about this, BUT ... YOU'RE BEING ACCUSED OF ABDUCTING A KID, AND _NO ONE_ is going to be crying for you IF WE BREAK A FEW FINGERS OF YOURS or EVEN A FEW TEETH.  SO SAVE US SOME TIME AND START TALKING ... What actually happened?"

And so, facing being beaten-up there at the station, she starts talking ... and then the story she ends up telling is one heck of a story filled with LOT's of very, very tragic yet very human aspirations and ... failings.  And then both the street scenes as well as "indoor" / "at home" scenes in gritty BLUE COLLAR Rio de Janeiro are simply magnificent making the city itself an obvious character in the story.  One feels that one IS THERE. 

I do know that a lot of (North) Americans HATE subtitled movies but HONESTLY this is one subtitled movie worth seeing.  ALTERNATIVELY, this is one film that could be remade and reset in the United States (in English/Spanish) and would really work.

What I liked about the story is that the characters were NOT "rich people" or "important people" or otherwise "special people."  Instead, they were ALL profoundly REGULAR people from a blue-collar / working-class "inner city" neighborhood and they were ALL very, very well drawn, all with at least some goodness within them and all with some, at times, terrible, terrible flaws.

Great, well crafted story!

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.  

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