Directed by Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas, Good Manners is probably the only Brazilian lesbian werewolf movie you’ll see this year. Set in the high-rises and slums of São Paulo, it’s a fable in the magical realist tradition that tackles race, class, and gender politics through a fantastical lens.
Clara (Isabél Zuaa), a lonely nurse, takes a job as a carer for wealthy, pregnant Ana (Marjorie Estiano) living in a luxury apartment with a stunning view. Ana’s pregnancy doesn’t put an end to her monthly mood swings, and caring-to-a-fault Clara, against her better judgement, does everything she can to assist. A romance blossoms between the two, and then the baby is born. The birth effectively divides the movie into two halves, the first in which Clara cares for Ana and the second in which Clara cares for Ana’s hairy son, Joel (Miguel Lobo).
There’s a lot going on in this film, much of it admirable and engaging. The problem is the pacing, which is languid to say the least. At two and a quarter hours, this movie really drags. There’s a gem hidden somewhere in it, but a fair bit could be excised. The first half’s underplayed, creeping dread is effective, but those same energy levels just don’t work in the second half.
The best thing you can really say here is that this film is utterly unique, with some tremendous imagery, dark comedy, clever exploration of themes and bold stylistic choices. It’s worth seeing despite being flawed, but its length did a lot to reduce the final score.
For more films and info visit sff.org.au