Blind teenager Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) has managed to fit in to his school with the help of his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) with only a few bullies trying to make his life difficult. Unaware that Giovana has feelings for him, Leonardo finds his world begins to change when new student Gabriel (Fabio Audi) joins his class. The developing friendship between Leonardo and Gabriel begins to upset Giovana who feels she has been cast to one side. As well as coming to terms with his sexuality, Leonardo also has to make some tough choices about the person he wants to be to maintain his friendships with both Gabriel and Giovana.
The Way He Looks is the debut feature from Brazilian writer/director Daniel Ribeiro. At its heart, The Way He Looks is a coming-of-age story with Leonardo coming to terms with who he is and the person he wants to be. Despite being teased by some classmates, Leonardo has maintained a pretty normal life despite his disability and his over-bearing and over-cautious parents. Once Gabriel arrives in his life, Leonardo starts to battle with his parents for more independence as he plans for his future.
The triangle that develops between Leonardo, Giovana and Gabriel is what the film hangs itself on. As Giovana starts to feel more pushed out, Leonardo and Gabriel grow closer to one another. What follows is a fairly formulaic progression in terms of the characters’ behaviour and actions. There is very little in the way of surprise along the way and the ending you can see from a mile off. It’s the lack of surprises and unexpected turns that unfortunately make the film feel all too familiar.
Where the film does excel though is in its performances. Ribeiro manages to get really strong performances out of his young cast, in particular Ghilherme Lobo (who isn’t blind in real life). Lobo is thoroughly convincing throughout the movie and he plays Leonardo with an appealing sensitivity that makes him relatable and sympathetic. His chemistry with both Tess Amorim and Fabio Audi is believable and this performance should ensure he is in-demand from film-makers in the future.
The Way He Looks is an engaging film that benefits from some striking cinematography and strong performances from its central three actors. What hampers it is that the story isn’t anything particularly new and save for Leonardo being blind, we’ve seen this kind of coming-of-age movie done many times previously. That isn’t to say the film isn’t worthy of your time, as it definitely is. It’s just not going to make quite the impact on you that it set out to and that’s a real shame.
Watch a selection of clips from The Way He Looks below: