LFF Review: Brazilian Film 'Good Manners' is a Clever Horror Creation
by Alex Billington
October 14, 2017
This Brazilian horror drama film falls under the category of WTF?!, but it's so so so good. Good Manners, or As Boas Maneiras in Portuguese, is a film from Brazil set in São Paulo that is unlike anything I've ever seen before. If I am to sum it up in one sentence it would be: a Brazilian, lesbian, musical, werewolf drama. It's kind of a horror film, but not really, much more of a drama with some horrific elements. Good Manners is the most clever, refreshing reinvention of the werewolf film in years. It will make you freak out and laugh and cover your eyes and throw your hands up aghast in bewilderment. The less you know about it going in, the more enjoyable the experience will be when you finally watch it unfold. So be careful with what you read.
Good Manners, made by co-writers & co-directors Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas, at times feels like a fairytale, but it's actually a werewolf film. That's about all I will say about the actual plot, because revealing any more will be too much. (This is about as much as I knew going in, and I was still shocked.) It's also two films in one - there is a distinct moment where it switches between the stories, basically part one and part two, and each one is its own experience but they are both connected. The film is set in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, though there are some stunning cityscape shots that make it almost look like a futuristic, fictional city with glorious, shiny glass skyscrapers with slums nearby. The plot at the beginning is fairly simple - a seemingly-wealthy woman hires another woman to be her live-in maid and nanny in a big, fancy apartment.
From there, the two start to bond, and we learn more about each of them. And as they get closer, everything seems fine at first, though there are subtle things happening that indicate there's something else going on. The lead performance by Isabél Zuaa as Clara is extraordinary, especially considering she has to balance two completely unique performances (across the two different halves of this crazy film) and yet also keep her character consistent from one story to the other. There are also excellent performances from Marjorie Estiano and Miguel Lobo, who have to take on challenging roles with subtext while remaining neutral in their performances. There's also a slick, moody score by Guilherme Garbato & Gustavo Garbato that enhances the thrill of some important moments. Plus there's gorgeous, lush cinematography by Rui Poças.
There's so much to admire about Good Manners. Even though it's baffling at times, it's baffling in a really good way. There's a scene right in the middle before the second story begins, and it's so off-the-chain wild, yet done so well (I don't even know how they pulled it off), it's the kind of scene you'll never forget seeing. Once you've seen it, you can't unsee it. If there's anything to complain about, it's that it runs a bit too long - a total of 135 minutes. It could've been trimmed down just a bit, closer to an even 2 hours, and still be just as effective and mesmerizing. I'm going to be thinking about this film for a long time, and recommending it to all those brave enough to enjoy this kind of bold, uncompromising, one-of-a-kind horror creation. Bravo.
Alex's London 2017 Rating: 9.5 out of 10
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