Daniel Ribeiro’s Eu Ñao Quero Voltar Sozinho (I Don’t Want To Go Back Alone, 2010) was one of my favorite short films, LGBT or otherwise. It was simple yet heartfelt and genuine. I was excited when i heard that the director will adapt this short into a feature length adaptation, which also marks the Ribeiro feature directorial debut. The adaptation was screened this year at the 64th Berlinale under a slightly different title ‘Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho’. Although the title meant ‘Today, I Want to Go Back Alone’ the international title for the film was ‘The Way He Looks’. It was positively received and won the FIPRESCI Prize for best feature film in the Panorama section and the Teddy Awards for best feature film, which recognize outstanding films with LGBT topics. (fair warning, might be a little spoilerish, and overload with screencaps)
NOT EVERY LOVE HAPPEN AT THE FIRST SIGHT. Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) is a blind teenager searching for independence. His everyday life, the relationship with his best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim), and the way he sees the world change completely with the arrival of Gabriel (Fabio Audi).
Not unlike Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 (2013/2008), what Ribeiro did was expanding the universe of the short and fleshed out each character more by establishing their story and relationship. We are introduced to Leo’s family and peers, something that was left out in the short. Little Leo, as his father lovingly called him, was tired of his parents over-bearing, overprotectiveness. Tired of his mother hovering over him and constantly babying him due to his special need, drive Leo to seek for independence through applying to a exchange program abroad. Meanwhile in school Leo was pretty much protected by his childhood friend Giovanna from the bully at school (actually the taunt ‘seeing eye dog’ is quite appropriate since Giovanna is constantly at Leo side). Therefore the arrival of Gabriel is pretty much a welcome change for Leo. Gabriel who was unapologetic about his sometimes obliviousness to Leo’s blindness was a breath of fresh air to his mundanely routine life.
Leo refuses to be limited by his blindness. By rebelling against his constrains, he begin his journey to find his ‘freedom’ and so called independence. Which did not amuse his parents, particularly his mother who constantly worries about his only child and probably suffers from fear of empty-nest syndrom. His father was not totally on-board but he was more ready to have a more open-discussion, saying his need of independence need to come from the right reasons. I guess this is also why Leo was not bothered by the bully who made fun of his blindness, because he refuse to be defined by it, so it hardly made any dent in his self confidence. But when they taunt him about the nature of his relationship with Gabriel As his journey towards freedom begun, Leo allows himself to redefine himself, and became the beginning of his journey to reaffirm his identity.
At the beginning of the film we saw Leo and Gi relaxing by the pool having idyllic conversation about their laziness since the summer holiday is coming to an end. Gi wished for grande amores, she said, and the two talked about love and first kiss that had not happened yet. When Gabriel arrived as the new student, Leo begin to opens up, much to the dismay of Gi. Leo interests in Gabriel grew almost organically. The two bonded over casual conversations: music, going to cinema (a first for Leo), or co-working on their school project. Fleeting glances, coy touches, imbued the atmosphere with coy flirtation. The fact that Gabriel gender is also male never really become a source of angst for Leo. I guess in a way this is a way to normalise the experience of first love without burdening it with the queer and coming-out subtext. Which made this film wonderful for me, because if you stripped away everything, this is a story of first love. Although the subject is relatively young Ribeiro tastefully explore their urges and lusts that brought the film into slightly darker territory than the short ever did. Ribeiro also conveys the film messages through the simplicity of his actors’ gestures rather than relying on dialogues alone.
Was the feature better than the short? Maybe not? With the duration Ribeiro successfully expand their universe and carry the story from the point of the short’s ending and giving it a sublime conclusion. It was saturated with light hearted humor and heartwarming sentiment. The characters become more full-bodied and had a little more depth. But at times i felt it lost the story waver and lost its focus, as the secondary plots that were not seamlessly integrated into the main idea. But it did not really bother me. Ribeiro ability to take something ordinary and giving it a tenderness that i found endearing. They were very calm and not hit you over the head with it. And it is that kind of quietness that i made it very moving. My eyes are constantly glued to the soft milky glow of Kerschove’s cinematography, just like what he did with the short (think of Her, if you will). The selection of music are a mix of classical piece and pop which includes Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On. It is quite interesting to see the classical are used as a direct representation of Leonardo’s mood and emotion. And as Gabriel begin to penetrate his solitude, a more pop-ish music played instead.
I love that it is not taking the angsty path like coming of age LGBT films (like Noordzee Texas (2011) or depressing like Dream Boy (2008)). Instead it is filled with positivity and optimism. Beautifully observed, brimming with innocence of the first love and the warmth of friendship, Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho definitely become a personal favorite of mine.
HOJE EU QUERO VOLTAR SOZINHO (2014)
GENRE Coming of Age, Drama, Romance
DIRECTOR Daniel Ribeiro | PRODUCER Daniel Ribeiro, Diana Almeida | WRITER Daniel Ribeiro | CINEMATOGRAPHER Pierre de Kerchove | EDITOR Cristian Chinen | STUDIO Lacuna Filmes | DISTRIBUTOR Vitrine Films | COUNTRY Brazil | RUNNING TIME 95 minutes | BUDGET BRL 2,650,000 | RELEASE February 10, 2014 (Berlinale)
STARRING Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim
DID YOU KNOW? This is not Ribeiro first win at Berlinale. In 2007, he wrote and directed a short called Café com Leite (You, Me, and Him) which won the crystal bear award for best short at the 58th Berlinale. The script for Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho was selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus – Script Station 2010.
Watch Eu Ñao Quero Voltar Sozinho short (or read my review).