It takes roughly five seconds to give in to the charms of The Way He Looks, a beautifully acted and written tale about a blind teenager who falls in love with a classmate.
The slightly gawky yet handsome Leo (Ghilherme Lobo, outstanding) feels constricted by his overprotective parents, who understandably are hesitant to let their son roam too far from the homestead. Complicating matters is Leo’s only real friend, Giovana, who has her own way of limiting Leo’s horizons.
But soon, Leo is joined in class by Gabriel, a new student in his Sao Paulo school. Even though Gabriel’s arrival is ostensibly a nonevent — Leo, after all, cannot see — we know instinctively that Leo’s world is about to open up considerably.
Director Daniel Ribeiro doesn’t rush things, and lets us savor the boys’ easy friendship, which delicately evolves into something possibly more. One of their most memorable scenes is a visit to the movie theater, where Gabriel describes to Leo what’s happening on the screen. It’s electric.
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Ribeiro keeps things understated in this coming-of-age drama, allowing Leo to melt our hearts without resorting to cheap sentiment. The writer-director (whose film is being submitted by Brazil for Oscar consideration in the foreign film category) perfectly captures that potent moment in adolescence when we begin to discover who we are.
In the annals of LGBT cinema, The Way He Looks is sure to become an instant classic, but this tender, exquisite film can be enjoyed by everyone, including young teenagers. If Americans ever start making films like this, the world will be a better place.
In Portuguese with English subtitles
Exclusive: Angelika Dallas
THE WAY HE LOOKS
* * * *
Director: Daniel Ribeiro
Cast: Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi
Running time: 96 min.