Frequently adapted Brazilian novel "My Sweet Orange Tree" receives sentimental treatment via sophomore helmer Marcos Bernstein ("The Other Side of the Street").

Frequently adapted Brazilian novel “My Sweet Orange Tree” receives sentimental treatment via sophomore helmer Marcos Bernstein (“The Other Side of the Street”). A semi-autobiographical tale about a mischievous young boy from a struggling family who finds friendship in unlikely places, the pic looks good and has appealing perfs, yet its style overwhelms its substance, rarely going beyond the superficial. Local play should be strong thanks to the source material’s popularity, while family-oriented fest sidebars are likely to call.

A haphazard flashback structure has author Vasconcelos (Caco Ciocler) recall the childhood events that led him to write his book. As a kid, Zeze (Joao Guilherme Avila) is considered a holy terror, most of all by his unemployed father (Eduardo Dascar), increasingly depressed by diminishing circumstances. When the family moves into a shack, each sibling claims a tree; Zeze gets a sweet orange sapling that becomes his sounding board. His only other friend is the town’s eccentric bigwig, Portuga (Jose de Abreu), who goes from frightening bogeyman to understanding grandfather figure. Attractive colors and some lovely images courtesy of d.p. Gustavo Hadba are undermined by schmaltzy music and tonal exaggerations.

My Sweet Orange Tree

Brazil

Production

An Imovision release of a Passaro Films production, in association with Elle Driver. (International sales: Elle Driver, Paris.) Produced by Katia Machado. Executive producers, Katia Machado, Elza Cataldo, Samantha Capideville. Directed by Marcos Bernstein. Screenplay, Bernstein, Melanie Dimantas, based on the novel "Meu pe de laranja lima" by Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Gustavo Hadba; editor, Marcelo Moraes; music, Armand Amar; production designer, Bia Junqueira; costume designers, Luciana Buarque, Maribel Espinoza; sound, Gustavo Campos, Beto Ferraz, Waldir Xavier; casting, Bruno Costa, Valter Lagoa. Reviewed at Rio de Janeiro Film Festival (competing), Sept. 29, 2012. (Also in Rome Film Festival -- Alice in the City.) Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Joao Guilherme Avila, Jose de Abreu, Caco Ciocler, Emiliano Queiroz, Eduardo Dascar, Fernanda Vianna, Julia de Victa, Tino Gomes, Kathia Calil.

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