Three teen girls in a Rio slum negotiate friendship and love in Sandra Werneck’s nonjudgmental “Stolen Dreams.” Though it plays like a sexually frank after-school special (overly expository dialogue, unexceptional lensing), the pic is one of the rare looks at favela life that aims to desensationalize its subject, providing a clear-eyed look at the hardships and joys faced by young women making the best of the life they know. Awarded the audience prize in Rio in October, “Dreams” could find a niche at small, youth oriented fests.
A baby daughter doesn’t stop 17-year-old Jessica (Nanda Costa, Rio’s actress winner) from enjoying her teen years, which include turning tricks for easy cash. Best friend Sabrina (Kika Farias) seems to strike gold when she takes up with gangster Wesley (Guilherme Duarte), while 14-year-old Daiane (Amanda Diniz) turns the tables on her molesting uncle (Daniel Dantas) by charging him for favors. Relationships can feel forced — especially between Daiane and hairdresser Dolores (Marieta Severo) — but Werneck (“Cazuza — Time Doesn’t Stop”) proves adept at accessibly repping life’s compromises without making it tragic. Catchy music wins auds over in the opening frames.