There have been many coming-of-age movies, such as The Yearling (1946), The 400 Blows (1959), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Breaking Away (1979), The Breakfast Club (1985), Stand By Me (1986), and Dazed and Confused (1993), that have made a really big impression on me, in terms of accurately depicting the trials and tribulations with growing up, peer pressure and parental dysfunction, and buddling love. And speaking of buddling love, Daniel Ribeiro's 2014 charmer The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) gets it absolutely right. It takes the premise of newfound love and takes it to such new directions that you wish everyone would start the trend.
The story centers on Leonardo, a blind teenager searching for freedom while having to deal with bullying, his worried parents, and his relationship with best friend Giovana. To Giovana's disappointment, he wants to go on an exchange program abroad, one which his parents are dead set against. This makes Leo's life even more claustrophobic and freedomless, but then his world is changed when Gabriel, a handsome new student comes into the picture. When this happens, Leo starts to have a whole new reflection about what's more important: his freedom or his attraction for Gabriel.
There are some wonderful moments that make this film so worth watching: the bicycle sequence that rivals the famous scene in Truffaut's Jules and Jim, the shower scene at camp when Gabriel admires Leo for the first time, Gabriel teaching Leo how to dance, the first kiss after a friend's party where Gabriel saves Leo from humiliation by Fabio (the school bully), and the ending where they both hold hands in front Fabio and his friends just as they walk home with Giovana.
The cast is uniformly excellent: Ghiherme Lobo is amazing and true as Leo (our lead protagonist), Fabio Audi makes a great impact as Gabriel, Tess Amorim provides wonderful support as Giovana, both Lucia Romano and Eucir de Souza give heartful performances as Leo's protective parents, and Pedro Carvalho mirrors Billy Zabka as Fabio, showing that he is really good at being a total jerk.
The DVD and Blu-ray have some great special features: deleted scenes with director Ribeiro, a fun behind-the-scenes look at production, a great cast and crew interview, a short film called I Don't Want To Go Back Alone that inspired the film, and its original theatrical trailer. There are also trailers from other Strand Releasing films: Edge of Seventeen, Romeos, Girlhood and Lifting.
The Way He Looks was one of the best films of 2014, and it's no wonder why it received so much acclaim all over the world. Although homosexuality is a big theme in the film, it is not the central focus. The film is all about connection, friendship, and proof that not all LBGT films have to be purely about sex, in order to be powerful. An instant classic!
The Way He Looks will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 17, 2015.