The Way He Looks was showing on the second day of Kingston’s Queer film festival Reelout. The film festival itself had a total of 19 films, showing 1 per day until February 7th 2015. All films had the underlying theme geared towards the LGBTQ community, promoting films made in Kingston and abroad. The film The Way He Looks was from Brazil directed by Daniel Ribeiro and came out in 2014. Over all, a very pleasant film depicting a young boy Leonardo Who is blind and had been from birth. Leo desperately wishes to gain independence as his family (especially his mother) do pretty much everything for him and limit his time spent outside the house and even time home alone. The films starts off introducing Leo’s way of life, how his mother over-cares for him, his friend Giovanna walks him home from school, the bullying etc. Though, without giving too much of the film away, when the new kid in school Gabriel comes around and befriends Leo and Giovanna their situation starts to change. Leo is intrigued by Gabriel as they begin to hang out and perhaps independence isn’t the only thing Leo has been searching for.
The film was simply adorable, the lush cinematography and the lovely scenes of Brazil. I must admit, I was watching the film expecting some kind of struggle causing the audience the deeply mull over the social issues of queerness in Brazil, a third world country with different social expectations for queerness and race. Though I was surprised to see next to any social issues or emotional turmoil at all aside from Leo’s minor struggle for some independence. Instead the world where the film takes place is idealized. It isn’t hard to notice the neighbourhood Leo lives in is of high to middle class homes. The people depicted in the film were light skinned and any cultural variance was minimal and if cultural variance was present those characters were very pale in complexion. The bullying there was only one kid and his posse, who taunted and teased him on and off throughout the whole film, mostly verbally. Of course that kid could never say too much without Leo’s teacher or his friend Giovanna to put the bully in his place, and severe physical harm was never caused. The world Leo had lived in seemed just a little too perfect, aside from the nervous teenage feelings which stood in the way of Leo and his crush.
The film was more so a celebration of love, not only was it visually pleasing, but the narrative was quite sweet and endearing. The cinematography was simplistic, but enticed the viewer to think of their other senses especially in the sexually charged scenes. The cinematography helped the viewer understand how Leo ‘sees’ the world around him. The viewer can’t help but relate to the awkward, nervous feelings of teenage love, as the drama goes down (which again is very minimal). When Leo ultimately comes to terms with his feelings and they are acknowledged, it was just the kind of film to make your heart melt. Through this loving approach to viewing homosexuality, it is easy to relate to nervous teenage feelings and love. When the film resolves, you can’t help but feel joy for Leo, as he has now found happiness and in a way independence through love.
My final qualm I have with the film besides the fact that drama was kept to a minimum was the overemphasized sexuality within the film. There were a few scenes that were sexually charged and though perhaps at times it could be argued that it was appropriate as whether gay, straight or in-between sexual tension and attraction is definitely there. I couldn’t help but think that somehow this film fell into the stereotypes that gay/queer couples need to be all over each other, as if to prove that they have a loving relationship. This has been overdone in visual media and I personally feel that some scenes would’ve been better without. I feel it’s cliché and if the point of this film was to normalize homosexual relationships in cinema then perhaps feeding into the harmful stereotypes wasn’t the way to go about doing so.