ARABY, not rated, Vi­o­let Crown,

Pasatiempo - - MOVING IMAGES -

Cristiano (Aris­tides de Sousa) is so in­con­se­quen­tial that we don’t even know that this movie is about him un­til some­where around the 20-minute mark. Up un­til then, it seems to be about a lonely teenager named An­dré (Murilo Caliari), who takes care of his lit­tle brother in the ab­sence of their par­ents, who are al­ways off trav­el­ing. Their aunt Már­cia (Gláu­cia Van­de­veld) stops in a few times a week to check on the boys.

When Cristiano, a la­borer at the fac­tory where Már­cia works as a nurse, is felled by an in­dus­trial ac­ci­dent, she sends An­dré to his apart­ment to col­lect some clothes and his ID. There the boy stum­bles upon a notebook with jot­tings by Cristiano about his life. As he sits down to read it, about as far into the film pro­por­tion­ally as it comes in this re­view, the main ti­tle ap­pears, and we pick up Cristiano’s story.

It’s a bleak life. Brazil­ian writer-direc­tors João Du­mans and Af­fonso Uchôa re­late it with glum de­spair, fash­ion­ing long slow pas­sages that de­scribe the hope­less dead-end jobs avail­able to Cristiano and men like him (pick­ing fruit, fac­tory la­bor), and the fu­til­ity of stand­ing up for his rights as a hu­man be­ing. He’s done a bit of time in jail for a fool­ish choice as a young man. But life it­self is a jail, with no pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

At one job in a tex­tile mill, he meets Ana (Re­nata Cabral). They have an af­fair, but it ends, and he moves on. She writes him to de­clare her con­tin­u­ing love, but al­though she is the one good thing that has ever hap­pened to him, he can’t man­age to re­spond in kind.

A ’60s folk blues that plays over the open­ing scene of the movie de­clares, “Wher­ever I have gone, the blues are all the same.” Cristiano’s story is ev­ery per­son’s story, wher­ever they are poor and down­trod­den. The film’s ti­tle comes from a joke one of his work­ing bud­dies tells about an Arab la­borer. The punch­line has to do with a desert full of sand. For Cristiano, beau­ti­fully and sen­si­tively played by de Sousa, his own life has no more dis­tinc­tion or as­pi­ra­tion than one of those grains of sand.

— Jonathan Richards

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