Saturday, September 20, 2008

LINHA DE PASSE / PASSING LINE - earnest but dull Brazilian family drama

LINHA DE PASSE is an earnest film chronicling the lives of a poor family living in contemporary Sao Paolo. Sandra Corveloni plays the matriarch, Cleuza. She's a tough, caring woman, no longer with her husband, father of her three oldest boys. She also has illegitimate son, and another baby of unknown paternity on the way. Cleuza drinks and smokes through preganancy, attends soccer matches, and struggles to make a living. Her son Denis, a father himself, is a motorcycle courier who reluctantly turns to petty crime to escape poverty. The second son, Dinho, is trying to escape his shady past through religion. The third son, Dario, wants to escape through football but at 18 he's too old and he lacks the money to bribe the scout. The youngest, Reginaldo, spends his days riding buses, trying to work out who his father is.

The resulting film is well-acted and feels authentic. It's a non-glamourous story without any Hollywood endings. Poor people struggle, get frustrated, fail, but you never doubt the bond connecting the family.

Still, I have to say that I found the movie interminably dull. Yes, yes, it's earnest and it's great to see an unblinking slice of real life. But the odds stacked against our characters staying honest and the grim inevitability of the stories sucked any dramatic momentum out of the movie. I felt like I was being hit over the head with this unsubtle portrait of working-class horror and that the situations in which the characters found themselves were too conveniently symbolic of modern Brazil.

LINHA DE PASSE played Cannes, where Sandra Corveloni won Best Actress, and Toronto 2008. It opened earlier this month in Brazil and is currently on release in the UK. It opens in Israel on November 27th; in the Netherlands on January 22nd and in France on January 28th.

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