A boozing, pot-smoking and penniless Brazilian musician is kicked out of his uncle’s home in “Soulbound,” though he conveniently bumps into a wealthy music producer whose relationship with his b.f. has just hit rock-bottom. Directorial debut from Brazilian scribe-helmer Caio Soh has a youthful freshness and flair for off-the-cuff poetry that compensate for many of its beginners’ mistakes, though a telenovela-worthy final twist undermines the otherwise nicely modulated emotional arcs. Bound for the indie and queer circuits as well as ancillary, the pic should also convince a local producer to invest time and money in this rough talent’s second feature.
Suggesting a grungier Brazilian version of Ashton Kutcher, long-haired 20-year-old Gil (Emilio Dantas) is practically thrown out of the house of his late mother’s sister, Leila (Paloma Duarte), by Leila’s hard-hearted hubby, Cesar (Roberto Bomtempo), who’s fed up with his nephew’s musical-bum routine.
Unsure where to go after his g.f., Carla (Juliana Lohmann) and some friends let him down, Gil ends up begging for free booze at a latenight beachside shack. Being the suffering creative type, he hopes not only to drown his sorrows, but maybe also to come up with a good song.
Pic also presents snippets of the equally eventful night of 40-ish music producer Otavio (Remo Rocha), whose b.f., Carlos (Claudio Lins), goes into a fit of jealous rage after the two watch old footage of Otavio and his first true love, a woman named Ligia. Otavio’s and Gil’s paths cross on the beach, where they bond over music and a bottle of whiskey, finally turning their chance meeting into an all-night bender that ends with a passionate kiss.
It is in the depiction of this night that the talents of Soh, a young poet and playwright, really come to the fore, managing to find poetry in simple human interaction and injecting the men’s casual, inebriated conversations with lyrical truths that jive with their musical sensibilities.
The rest of the pic charts Gil’s coming to terms with finding “happiness in a place where he never thought he’d go” and Otavio’s continued obsession with Ligia, with whom he’s lost contact. This element, which could have been fleshed out further, explores the possibility that a gay man’s amorous relationship with a woman before his coming out wasn’t an unemotional, wrong-headed affair, but something involving real feelings.
Newcomer Dantas, a singer, and vet Rocha keep things grounded, and their easy rapport feels entirely natural. However, Soh makes Cesar and the jealous Carlos such caricatures of pent-up male anger that they at times threaten to take things into sudser territory. And the final twist arrives so late, there’s no room to examine its emotional impact, thus reducing it to a simple shock tactic.
Smudgy, very agile camerawork features some extreme closeups and occasional splitscreen, though the at-times poor or odd choices of coverage and shots betray Soh’s inexperience; editing is likewise a mixed bag. Music, by Maria Gadu, Maycon Ananias and Aureo Gandur, keeps things grungy.