Film Review: The Way He Looks

The Way He Looks is a beautiful coming of age story about a young visually impaired boy named Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo). Along with his already obvious struggles, his life is made more difficult when a new student named Gabriel (Fabio Audi) arrives into his life. Gabriel soon becomes friends with Leo and Leo’s very close friend Giovanni (Tess Amorim). Gabriel’s curly hair and portrayed innocence attract the attention of multiple girls around him, Giovanni included. When Leo and Gabriel are paired up to work on a project together they begin to grow close through a similar interest in music. Giovanni’s jealousy towards the two boys forces her temporarily out of the picture and allows Leo and Gabriel to grow increasingly close. As Leo struggles with bullying at school and overprotective parents at home, Gabriel encourages him to relieve tension through music, dance, and even sneaking out of the house. As Leo’s independence and confidence grows he also begins to realize that the feelings that he has for Gabriel has grown into something more complex. Leonardo is now forced to deal with his desire to be independent while maintaining two very important relationships with Giovanni and his family, as well as the possibility of a new one.

The theme of sexual orientation is dealt in an interesting way in the movie. Not once is the term “gay” used to describe the way Leo feels about Gabriel. Even when Leo tells Giovanni what has been bothering him he simply states that he is in love with Gabriel, as if the gender of his love interest makes no difference. I believe this is what the director was going for, that to Leoand—Giovanni as well—it makes no difference as to the sex of the person that he is attracted to. Leo simply fell in love from the experience and time that he spent with Gabriel, and was never really effected by society’s heteronormative beliefs.  The only implications that what they are doing is somehow wrong are the homophobic comments made by another student towards Leo and Gabriel’s growing friendship. The main conflicts in the story are focused more so on Leo’s thirst to be independent and leave home as well as the challenges he faces being blind. His disability is a major focus in the film, and is displayed in a heartfelt way. The film focuses solely on his life and the issues he faces, creating a special connection with the audience. Issues of ableism arise throughout the film when dealing with Leo’s disability. These issues arise in many different forms; from Leo being mocked by a classmate for having to use a typewriter to dictate his notes in class, or his friends asking if Leo has “seen a funny video” or wants to “go watch a movie”. The first example is blatant bullying that happens close to the beginning of the film, and is one of the many examples of discrimination towards Leo in the film. The second example however is different, the comments made by Leo’s friends are not meant to be hurtful they simply display the emphasis in society on being able-bodied. Whiteness is another issue I found to be present in the film. The actors hired to play the various students, teachers, and parents are mostly Caucasian. Even the main characters Leonardo, Giovanni, and Gabriel who are played by Brazilian actors are of light complexion. Just over half of the population in Sao Paulo is white, however the rest of the population is very diverse and I believe the citizens and culture could have been represented better.

On top of the themes of sexuality, friend ship, and dealing with disability, Leo’s parents are a significant part of the film. The importance of family is presented beautifully through the relationship between Leo and his parents and grandmother.  From the first family scene in the film it is difficult to not enjoy the friendly banter and affection between family members. It is never revealed whether or not Leo’s parents new about his sexuality, but there were situations that had captured my attention. One of these moments happened when Leo’s mother was taking care of him when he was sick. They were discussing Leo’s future, specifically finding someone to love and have kids with. When Leo denies both possibilities as well as states that there are too many kids in the world already, his mother reassures him that he will find someone to love and that he can adopt. I feel that she chose the word “someone” carefully, opposed to stating a gender. I feel that she was also revealing her positive attitude if Leo chose to adopt a child with his future partner.  Along with the scene of Leo’s father, who is portrayed as a very strong and compassionate character, assists Leo with shaving his face are two wonderful scenes that depict the constant love and support that Leo has in his life and will continue to have as he grows older and takes on new challenges.

I truly enjoyed not only the movie, but being an active observer of the LGBT work and progress in this community. The entire night was delightful and I am glad I was able to experience it as well as write about it.

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4 Comments

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  1. The way you portrayed this film was very effective in convincing people that it is beautiful and is inspiring to the viewer. It was interesting that you noticed how the director didn’t draw attention to labels concerning sexuality; however, drew attention to the homophobia and bullying of imperfections that exist. I wish that I could have seen this movie, so I enjoyed reading a good analysis of the film!

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  2. I found that your summary of the main events of the movie was very clear and allowed me to understand the context of the points you raised. I found the point you made about the way that sexual orientation is displayed in the movie as completely normal to be quite refreshing. I also found it interesting that the characters in the film did not submit to othering by placing labels such as “gay” on there relationship instead just seeing it a love. When partnered with the fact that Gabriel encourages Leo into pursuing activities which may not be considered masculine, the relcutance of the film to show othering builds a strong point about being who you are and being happy about it. I have also noticed in the other blogs I have commented on and yours aswell the issue of whiteness or lack of ethnic diversity in the films. Althogether I found your analysis of the film to be well rounded and allowed me to find understand the messages of the movie without viewing it.

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  3. I enjoyed reading about “The Way He Looks”–the movie sounds complex and beautiful, and I love the way that the narrator represents a couple of distinct communities, without labelling them as such. The understanding that he seems to develop of himself does not fit into the social divisions that make up differently-abled or LGBT communities, and I love how that is reflected in his own sense of becoming independent. I also think that there is something symbolic represented through his inability to see in the same way as his classmates/friends. His physical blindness allows him to become more intimately connected with others, his world, and his family; the beauty of which you discuss. It almost seems like his disability allows him more insight than those with the ability to physically see each other; he understands beyond that dimension of social connection, and that seems to be beautifully represented in the film through his sexuality, his love for others, and his own sense of self.

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  4. I think the metaphor the screenwriter created as the main character is blind and also gay is beautiful. In our society so much importance is placed upon looks and physicality, and Leo’s perceived disability may have really been a strength as he could ‘see’ past societies norms of heterosexual relationship’s and find a love of his own. I believe Scary Spice did an amazing, in-depth review of the movie with great insight and use of class terminology.

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