The working-class hero of Araby isn’t a winner. He’s so normal we don’t even know he’s the lead until the twenty-minute mark. His name is Cristiano (Aristides de Sousa), and the first time we see him he’s just a guy in a car, being driven to his factory job in southern Brazil. The next he’s a comatose body, knocked out by some offscreen on-site mishap.
The good news is that Cristiano does get his own movie, eventually. To stress his cosmic insignificance, directors João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa make us think we’re watching another film: one of those austere, minimalist sagas that clog the classy end of the festival circuit, this one about a brooding, low-income teen, Andre (Murilo Caliari). Just as we’re settling in for an ocean of master-shot long takes, Andre happens upon Cristiano’s secret, scribbled memoirs. The film’s title belatedly appears, and we’re thrown into a sprightlier if perhaps even sadder story — a Wim Wenders–ish road movie with no destination, where the only reason to move is to survive, if just barely.
And so we watch our everyman prole flit from place to place and job to job. He’s screwed over or, best-case scenario, paid just enough to keep him breathing. He doesn’t have time to feel down, and it doesn’t hit him how bad he has it until suddenly, late in, he briefly finds a reason to feel good. A soundtrack of folk/country classics takes the edge off, but make no mistake: This is a beautiful bummer, giving voice to someone who’s barely a number, but only to remind us that most of us are OK not thinking about numbers at all.
Directed by João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa
Opens June 22, Film Society at Lincoln Center