Driven
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Driven

At first blush, the new Brazilian film Araby feels like a typical oh-so-sensitive imported movie, the kind, a la Il Postino, that Miramax used to market so successfully to mezzobrow filmgoers. We open with a teen—one of the mode’s moody, slim, soulfully troubled boys with a vast head of uncombed hair—biking alone on a mountain road, and the camera follows him as an old Jackson C. Frank ballad strums lyrically. We’ve been here before, you think; here comes the dysfunctional home, the mumbling self-pity, the romantic trial, the wistfully scored struggles toward self-discovery.

But the film, by writer-directors João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa, has something else on its docket, a far subtler tack that is both poetic and intensely granular in its depiction of life at the low edge of the Brazilian socioeconomic spectrum. At home, the boy, Andre (Murilo Caliari), is alone and unparented, watching over a little brother while his mother is away working somewhere unspecified. A caretaking aunt shows up periodically, and an aluminum factory looms nearby, covering the village with ash. The film is in no hurry, intersecting almost by chance with an introverted migrant worker who catches a ride with the aunt and the boy. Next thing we know, the guy drops dead. He is bereaved only by the aunt, who doesn’t know whom to contact. The boy goes to the dead man’s rented room to gather his few belongings, and finds a notebook.

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