Profiling young people aiming for a future in a scrappy Rio circus, Yank filmmaker Kelly J. Richardson’s “Without a Net” rushes through its subject with a welter of scenes that fly by without making much of an impression. The result is a potentially heartwarming film that falls considerably short of its intended impact, comprising a minor work in an ever-growing filmography on the struggles of the poor in one of the world’s most vivid cities. Modest fest run won’t translate into theatrical sales but could score a public TV slot.
Richardson focuses on individual characters, such as the surprisingly hefty Djeferson Mendes, who performs on the trapeze, and jumper-contortionist Barbara Moura, herself an underdog pressured by the circus’s fast-rising star, the ultra-flexible Rayana Dias da Motta. Youngster Platini Queiroz impresses coach Allan Davi with his dedication, given the severe poverty he and the rest of the cast endure. The circus itself, illegally occupying a parking lot in the rough Praca Onze neighborhood, is half social project, half showcase for an entertaining company whose work is finally seen in the pic’s closing minutes.