Film

Brazil’s The Way He Looks Is a Sometimes-Corny Gay Coming-of-Age Story

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Though it’s tempting to laugh at the endless stream of neologisms and cosmologies that Tumblr hath wrought, the nobility of intent is undeniable: Everyone feels the need to define and understand himself, herself, or itself. (If I went through my teenage years as a happy goth, someone else has the right to be a cupioromantic with a gay Sherlock headcanon.) Still, convincingly representing intersectionality is tricky — one misplaced emotional beat and it’s Hallmark Channel after-school-special territory, never again to be taken seriously.

Daniel Ribeiro’s The Way He Looks, a coming-of-age tale about a blind boy who realizes he’s gay, toes that corny line. Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) begins to rebel against his overprotective parents and grows close to the cute new kid at school, Gabriel (Fabio Audi), almost at the expense of his relationship with his bestie and guide, Giovana (Tess Amorim).

The shuffling of who’s an important/close friend transcends the specificity of being gay and disabled, and that experience is rarely depicted as realistically as this. But the film crosses into self-parody in moments like the (mandatory) shower scene, in which the camera, assuming Gabriel’s perspective, slowly pans down Leonardo’s naked, slippery backside.

The manner in which it’s shot makes apparent this is perhaps more for the audience’s benefit than for the sake of establishing interior feelings; it’s no less gratuitous than would be a lingering close-up of a cute neighbor girl’s low-cut blouse in the straight equivalent of this movie. (The authenticity of their sexual tension was apparent before this softcore insert.) Needless to say, the film’s happy ending is also worthy of a teenage sneer.

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