The Way He Looks: Reelout Review


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.



5 thoughts on “The Way He Looks: Reelout Review

  1. Interesting review! It was great that you acknowledged the cinematography and how it encourages the audience to empathize with Leo by putting them in his shoes. However, it occured to me that you expected some sort of violence against Leo. Why do you think that the director decided to exclude physical violence? Also, what do you think about disabled people often being depicted as the victim of bullying? Aside from the film itself, how was the Reelout festival for you? I would like to know your personal experience at the festival.


  2. Nice review! I really like that you picked apart the film and were very critical of the plot as well as the cinematic choices in the film. Cinematography plays a big part of how we view and understand films, and it seems like this was the case in this film. From your review I take it that this movie attempted to be a simple romantic coming of age film. It seems as though the filmmaker attempted to “normalize” how the homosexual relationship is viewed, but failed in a sense cause he still perpetuated some stereotypes. I wonder though why in America it is okay to show middle class white people only in a film but when a film is shot in Brazil you have to show the slums? Maybe the fimmaker in a way was making a statement that Brazil is more then its slums? Who knows? I do think though that it was wrong that he did not show any sort of diversity in the film, or that there was no talk on cultural opinions on the main characters homosexual relationship. I was looking forward to hearing your opinion on the film festival itself, did you enjoy it?


  3. This was a really good review! I thought you did a very interesting job depicting the film by talking about its cinematography and its story line. You touched on a very interesting issue which was that homosexuality was seen through more of a loving approach in this film, do you think that could have some type of affect on our society, as it is not always looked at in a loving manner? Do you think the fact that Leo was disabled played any type affect on how the characters relationship was portrayed in the film? I as well agree with the fact that it was wrong for the director to not show diversity in the film, as this could weaken the impact it is supposed to have on people. I thought it was also interesting as the film allows the audience to see a homosexual relationship play out in a different country in the world, do you think this might help open the eyes of people in countries that aren’t quite so accepting? Aside from your review how did you find the festival ? Did you enjoy it?


  4. I enjoyed reading you review of The Way He Looks. Based on your review I too feel like the film could have had more pronounced messages with a more diverse representation of Brazil by featuring the poor and the rich or possibly both fair and dark skinned people. The plot also sounds like it could be read just as smoothly if Leo had been straight and Gabriel had been a Gabrielle. Do you think this film could have been aiming to grab “pink dollars” as discussed in lecture? On a final note, I liked your analysis of love as independence for Leo. I thought that was an interesting take.


  5. Many of you have asked about my experience at Reelout and if I enjoyed the film. I did really enjoy watching the film, though putting it under the microscope and viewing it in a critical sense made me feel a bit different. Thinking back, perhaps I should’ve summed that up in a paragraph at the end.

    In terms of the films festival itself it was the most casual film festival I’ve ever been to which was pretty cool, though perhaps (specifically for my film) I mostly saw queen’s students in the audience and a few Kingstonians. That had got me thinking about how much of the actual kingston community (aside from students) are involved/ are encouraged to participate. I also felt more could’ve been done in terms of promoting discussion before and after the film, to give them more context, and also the host seemed a little disorganized and forgot which short film was going to be shown before the movie itself. Overall a fairly positive experience, I’d say.

    In terms of violence in the film I cannot speak for the director on this, but perhaps he left it out because it wouldn’t fit with the feel good kind of film. I wasn’t necessarily expecting violence per say towards Leo to happen, though I was expecting more drama in general surrounding Leo’s sexual orientation in a third world country. There wasn’t anything really wrong with the happy ending, it just didn’t seem realistic at the time… though for all I know it could happen.

    I’m not sure if Leo’s disability was a big deal, there’s scene where he and Gabriel go see a movie and Leo has never been to one for obvious reasons but he doesn’t use his disability as a reason not to go. Leo was quite independent/ gaming independence throughout the film and is also able bodied. Though for sure the film would’ve been quite different if Leo wasn’t blind.

    Pink dollars for sure! Though whilst watching it i don’t feel it was an evil corporate move… or at least one could hope!


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