Excitingly unpredictable drama about a trio of Rio college friends — one a girl both boys are in love with — who get involved in a dangerous criminal world when they help a young street kid, “Forbidden to Forbid” cannily exposes police corruption and murder in the context of a richly textured, engrossing character study. Inventive second feature by Jorge Duran (“A cor do seu destino”) is the kind of cool, irreverent fare one expects of top Brazilian offerings. Young auds should have no trouble getting on its wavelength, while fest awards could open the door to arthouse sales.
Pic won the Films in Progress prize at San Sebastian last year. Duran, a Chilean who lives in Brazil, also won best director at Chile’s Valdivia meet this month.
Paulo (Caio Blat) is a med student whose anarchic motto is “forbidden to forbid.” He dulls his sharp brain with recreational drugs, giving rise to a wild opening sequence in which he goes to work at the hospital totally stoned. Still, he’s able to brilliantly answer his prof’s question about what is ailing the housemaid Rosalina (Edyr Duqui) — leukemia.
Meanwhile, Paulo’s best friend Leon (Alexandre Rodrigues), a politically committed sociology student doing a study on slum kids, is high on his romance with architecture student Leticia (Maria Flor). A brief rooftop sex scene illustrates their attraction to each other. But when she moves in with the two boys, Leticia becomes Paulo’s forbidden object of desire.
Duran and Dani Patarra’s script is cleverly layered with no signs of forcing. Paulo’s increasing closeness to the dying Rosalina brings him into contact with Rio’s slums, where he discovers one of her sons, a CD street vendor, has been murdered by the police. Her younger son, an eyewitness, is targeted for death.
When they decide to help the boy, the trio of friends ends up in a nightmare.
Cast is finely selected, with standouts Blat and Rodrigues relaxed and mature as the boys. So different from each other and yet so closely bonded, they introduce a note of optimism into a future Brazil that otherwise looks pretty frightening. Flor is bright and believable as the girl.
This low-budgeter was shot with more dash than cash. Luis Abramo’s cinematography is stark and striking, particularly when he photographs the awe-inspiring buildings that Le Corbusier and other modern architects built in Brazil. Often, the reverse shot is a sea of slums. Film’s symbolic finale, which resolves very little and leaves the future open, is lensed amid the ruins of a piece of modern architecture being eaten up by a jungle.