Directed by Daniel Ribeiro, this debut feature based on his previous prize winning short film I Don’t Want To Go Back Alone is a remarkably sensitive and warming approach on the gay, coming of age genre. Daniel Ribeiro’s The Way He Looks focuses on the blossoming sexual awakening of Brazilian teen, Leonardo. The film follows him through a whirlwind of adolescent emotions as he discovers his urge to experience his first kiss. There is one small problem though, Leonardo is completely blind.
The film starts whilst naïve Leo and his caring best friend Giovanna are lounging about by the pool, talking idly before Leo mentions he can’t wait for his first kiss, oblivious to the longing look in Giovanna’s eyes. The two have obviously been close for years but all that is about to change when the new boy Gabriel turns up at school. The Way He Looks covers a variety of themes in its hour and a half span. The issue of Leo’s sexuality all but takes a back seat whilst contending with Giovanna’s unrequited love, Leo’s fierce teenage need for independence and the real life issues faced by those who are visually impaired. Ribeiro sends out a strong message that sexuality in no way defines a person and that labels make-not-the-man.
This seems to be a running theme lately in gay cinema as the genre seems to be bending less into an explosion of sexual tension and more towards simply accepting who you are and sharing a kiss with that special someone. But fear not, there are a couple of scenes for all of those who need at least a little bit of flesh to get them through to the credits. There’s a particularly intense scene involving a scantily clad Leo rubbing himself in the dark wearing Gabriel’s hoody. And to top it off the boys even share a shower where Gabriel gets to stare as the water cascades down the oblivious Leonardo’s naked body.
All in all The Way He Looks is a pretty decent debut for Ribeiro. Even though there’s the odd corny line, all of the story archs get rounded off quite nicely, complete with the token ‘edge of your seat’ moment, it’s aesthetically pleasing and to top it there’s an ass shot or two. Not bad.