Rating: PG-13 for sexual situations. In Portuguese with English subtitles
Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
A woman of circumstance collects her men into a spirited ménage a quatre, in this earthy, bittersweet comedy that speaks softly and carries a big stick.
The stark and dry landscape of Northeastern Brazil seems an unlikely setting for a quirky love story. With minimal dialogue, the narrative follows Darlene (Regina Case), unmarried and with a small child to care for. At loose ends, Darlene accepts a proposal of marriage from Osias (Lima Duarte), an old-school farmer who offers food, shelter, and little in the way of affection. Hungering for human tenderness, Darlene falls into an affair with Osias’ live-in cousin Zezinho (Stenio Garcia), a sprightly gnome of a man who blossoms under Darlene’s passionate tutelage. A child is born, then another. Open to change, Darlene doesn’t question her sons’ parentage. She merely smoothes over her men’s ruffled feathers and coolly goes about the complicated business of being wife, lover, and mother.
Ultimately discontent with the status quo, Darlene sets her sights on the handsome Ciro (Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos), toiling alongside her in the sweltering fields. Quick as you can say “machete-swing”, the pair are consummating their attraction in the back forty. Ciro is homeless, so Darlene (surprise, surprise) offers him temporary shelter with her family. The other men naturally resent his presence, and the ensuing infant, but Darlene is steadfast in her goodwill and stubborn determination for burgeoning family harmony.
Case is a legend in Brazil, an indomitable force of nature who embodies family joys and intimacies. That said, this may be an easier pill to swallow for native South Americans. For the culturally uninitiated (us), it’s a judgmental struggle regarding this Brazilian Lolita and her unorthodox cabaret. Feelings sway between disapproval of Darlene’s pick-a-number, get-in-line trailer trashiness, and bold admiration for her uncanny ability to charm the pants (figuratively speaking) off of every male in sight. Not to mention her positive attitude and unwavering belief in herself as the center of a powerful female universe.
Brazil looks stunning, even this poverty-stricken region full of stark, natural color. Think country cousin to Pedro Almodovar’s radically tinted cityscapes. The men, in particular Garcia and Vasconcelos, represent a sultry, Latin maleness that is extremely alluring. Try to set aside that pesky cultural conditioning, and rejoice in a curiously enjoyable sexual fantasy.