Lula, Son of Brazil


Forget “Son of Brazil “: This syrupy origin story/biopic on the nation’s beloved reformist president, whose second term ended in 2010, should be titled Mama’s Boy. Tracing Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s first 35 years—from his birth in 1945, as the seventh of eight impoverished children, to 1980, when he was jailed for a month as president of the Steel Workers’ Union in São Paulo—the film is an unrepentant love story between the future leader and his mother, the illiterate, saintly Dona Lindu (Glória Pires). At age seven, Lula stands up to his drunk dad when he starts slapping Lindu for allowing the boy to get an education; his 13-year-old incarnation makes moon eyes at adoring Mom after he comes home from his first day of machinist training. Adult Lula (Rui Ricardo Diaz) finds other women to love, but tragedy sends him back to Lindu (as the film stupefyingly flashes back to scenes shown just minutes before). Lula’s leadership qualities and ascendance in the union are conveyed in shorthand, primarily through his growing hairier and paunchier, leaving more screen time for visits in the hospital with the ailing Lindu and her stirring words: “Don’t give up.”