Berlinale 2014 Encore – Winner of the Teddy Award

By Sascha Krieger

Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho (Panorama / Brazil / Director: Daniel Ribeiro)

Leo is fifteen and a normal teenager with very ordinary problems: overprotective parent, a difficult sexual awakening, bullying classmates, a changing relationship with the best friend, first crushes and bouts of jealousy. On top of all this, Leo is blind which doesn’t help his assertion of independence and finding his place in life. When Gabriel joins his class, hitherto unknown feelings arise and complicate things even further. The light-footed way with which director Daniel Ribeiro treads across this battlefield of puberty is fascinating from the opening shot, which shows Leo and best friend Giovana from above, lazing by the pool. Ribeiro with return to the perspective from the top repeatedly, a look in from the outside, from the distance, complementing the closeness, the intimacy the camera often seeks and enriching the range of perspectives, rounding out the portrayal. The plot seems (as suggested by the Berlinale’s introductory text) inspired by Shakespearean comedy, all the pieces are there: love triangles, misunderstandings, multiplying combinations of the two spiraling nearly out of control and later ample explanations and happy endings for all. There are no real villains, even the school bullies appear rather harmless and more mischievously playful than evil.

Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (© Berlinale)

Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho (© Berlinale)

In somebody else’s hands, this could have turned out rather shallow and banal but Daniel Ribeiro converts this rather formalized plot into an enchanting coming of age tale that avoids all the traps provided by the plot as well as all those heavy topics: the blindness, the emerging homosexuality. But there is no heaviness whatsoever, Ribeiro unfolds his story with the lightest of touches, avoids unnecessary dramatic turns and gives his characters room to breathe and to develop. Particularly Ghilherme Lobo as Leo delivers a memorable performance that fuses depth with humor – just as the film does. Subtle is the depiction of Leo’s attempts at greater indepence, wonderfully tenderly observed the budding attraction between Leo and Gabriel which needs no spectacular outbursts or declarations of love, it just happens, as it tends to do in life. Drenched in warm soft summer colors, which give the film a floating, somewhat dreamy character, and driven by a narrative pace that is never hectic or forced, the film treads the line between coming of age drama, comedy of errors, romantic fairy tale and imaginative day dream. Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho is an astonishingly sure-handed depiction of what it feels like to be young, whether you’re blind or gay or neither of the two which made is a fully deserving favorite of audience and critics alike at this year’s Berlinale.

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