Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Film Review: "Do Começo ao Fim" ("From Beginning to End")

The cover art for the DVD should have already tipped you off that this film involves an intimate relationship between two men, but what the image doesn't tell you is that they also happen to be half-brothers.  So if either or both of those themes bothers you, do not view the film!  It's not that the film is overly explicit or graphic, though there are a couple scenes with minimal nudity, but the subject matter itself may not be to everyone's taste.  

However, it would be a mistake to categorize the film as a gay film, because it transcends the genre. If anything, it's a film about obsessive love, and that alone might be enough to bother some viewers.  

Now that the warnings are out of the way, on to the review. The film opens in a maternity ward, with Francisco, a boy about 5 years old, recalling how he first met his newly born younger half-brother Thomás  The two boys form an intense bond from the very beginning, and the bond intensifies as they grow older.  

They are the only two children of wealthy parents. Their mother, Julieta, is a doctor, and their father, Alexandre, (step-father to Francisco), is an architect.  Francisco's father is Pedro, an Argentinian with whom Julieta had a relationship before marrying Alexandre.  

The boys grow up in an affluent and loving atmosphere, and in the first part of the film, we see them doing the things that kids do, playing and having fun with their family.  The boys go to visit Francisco's father, Pedro, in Buenos Aires one Christmas, where they are also welcomed warmly.

The parents are affectionate with both boys, and while they see some signs of excessive intimacy even when they're children, they realize that there's not much that they can do about it.  

We next see them as young men at their mother's funeral.  Her death has clearly had a devastating effect on the boys and Alexandre.  Alexandre moves out of the house and lets his son and step-son live there.  If the relationship between Francisco and Thomás had not been physical up to that point, it is now, but the scenes are relatively short, and tastefully done.

Thomás is a competitive swimmer, and when he is offered the opportunity to train in Russia for several years to compete in the Olympics, he initially wants to turn it down.  But Francisco insists that Thomás should go, and he does.  The resolution to the story is handled well, but I won't give it away here.  

I really enjoyed this film, because it's the only Brazilian film I have seen so far that doesn't deal either with drugs and crime in the favelas, or the gritty, grinding poverty of the sertão.  Instead, it offers a view of one affluent family's story.  The production values are very good, the actors are excellent, and the story, while unusual, is not as strange as it sounds in a plot synopsis. 

The film looks quite good on DVD, with artistic cinematography and good composition.  There is a scene when the boys go back to Buenos Aires as young men, when they're walking through the streets of the city, and bystanders turn to look at them, probably because it was obvious that a film was being made.  I wondered why the director didn't opt for a less obtrusive hand-held camera for these shots, or clear out a couple of blocks so that just paid extras were filmed, but perhaps the film's budget didn't allow for that.  

The soundtrack is excellent and fits the mood of the film well.  


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