The unlikely success story of superstar Brazilian country music duo Zeze di Camargo and Luciano receives a polished if highly manipulative treatment in “Two Sons of Francisco.” The pop stature of the brothers is demonstrated by the fact that the pic has become the largest grossing Brazilian film in 25 years, scoring more than 5 million admissions since its August bow. Similar results seem unlikely in most foreign markets, though the easy emotional buttons pic presses will secure Brazil’s foreign-lingo Oscar submission solid biz, and possibly spread the pair’s sound far and wide.
Vet lenser Breno Silveira (“Me, You, Them,” “Man of the Year”) steps easily into the director’s chair, and he never appears more confident with his storytelling than in the charming opening act, set in the backcountry of Goia province.
Francisco (Angelo Antonio) hooks up a radio to hear his favorite country songs, and promises his wife Helena (Dira Paes, “My Uncle Killed a Guy”) that they will have two musical sons. Although thought a bit off his rocker, Francisco with Helena soon fills their humble abode with kids.
A farmer not a musician, Francisco nonetheless helps his eldest son Mirosmar (striking young thesp Dablio Moreira) when he takes a liking for the harmonica. Son Emival (Marcos Henrique) follows with an interest in music. As patiently as Francisco, pic observes how these boys go from aimlessly (and endlessly) fooling around with instruments like the accordion to starting to master them.
Pic is influenced by the structure of standard Hollywood music biopics, and not always to its benefit. What appears to be a refreshing development — the appearance of aggressive music agent Miranda (Jose Dumont) — is only mildly engaging, and the eventual tragic turn is clearly telegraphed.
Because the movie is intent on showing triumph against all odds, the crises that befall the family seem to make the eventual breakthrough of Mirosmar (played as an adult using the showbiz moniker of Zeze di Camargo by Marcio Kieling) all the more obvious.
In contrast to the film’s opening, the third act is awash in rushed character developments, including younger brother Welson (Thiago Mendonca) who joins Mirosmar to form the duo Zeze and Luciano. Still, in spite of all its hurried dramatics, pic plays out its string too long.
Taking a page out of the Steven Spielberg playbook, pic shows the real Zeze and Luciano with their parents on the old family homestead, and then embracing in a genuinely emotional scene over closing credits.
Silveira’s command of the camera is amply evident, but he prettifies the boys and the family, even when they’re struggling on the farm or in a leaky tenement house. Nonetheless, pic reps the high production standard that’s been set by Conspiracao Films, which, with this blockbuster, is the indisputable king of Brazilian filmmaking.
Ace musician Caetano Veloso works his magic as music supervisor. Cast tends to stress the melodrama, and the highly likable Antonio as Francisco is sadly missed in pic’s latter half. Moreira and Henrique appear cast as much for their enchanting voices as their acting.