As Boas Maneiras (Good Manners)London Film Festival 2017
Childbirth must be painful, and Good Manners contains a quite dramatic, graphic metaphor for the anguish of a postpartum haemorrhage. It’s at this point that the directors Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra let loose, and what started as a quasi-political treatment of race, class and sexuality in São Paulo descends into a nightmarish horror show of wolfish desires and beastly offspring. What is it about metaphors, again – that they can be both enlivening and deadening?
Clara (Isabél Zuaa), a black nurse with a grade-four haircut, gives off the impression of being alone. She is at least a self-sufficient, solitary figure. Ana (Marjorie Estiano) is young, white, wealthy and pregnant – she hires Clara as a future nanny and immediate assistant. At first, there is a culture clash: Ana appears a carefree brat and Clara, shy and reserved, does not suffer fools more than is necessary. Soon a bond is struck between the pair, however. Each has similar anxieties; each needs intimacy. A lesbian drama, perhaps? Not quite. Our view of Ana’s pregnancy shifts. The baby’s conception is cloaked in ambiguity, associated with menace and finally – after several bouts of full moon somnambulism – revealed to be abundantly terrifying. The first half ends abruptly, and we find ourselves several years later with Clara the sole carer for a reticent, kindly young boy named Joel (Miguel Lobo). She keeps close restrictions on him, but as with all children the rule holds that at some time she’ll have to let go. The consequences are usually less grave, in fairness.
For a story in two parts, the movie ties itself in knots, unable to find a way out of the demonic contortions it creates. The premise is undoubtedly fun but the filmmakers seem never sure where to go with it. Added to this, the CGI renditions appear ropey to inexpert eyes and there aren’t pits deep enough, shovels large enough or people willing enough to dispatch that monstrous animatronic foetus that claws its way to freedom. At least the transformation sequences amusingly allude to the bestial metamorphoses that wrought havoc in London over three decades ago. There are striking moments of monster horror like this but the plot is too unfocused to justify the running time. We end, predictably, penned in and with pitchforks at the gate. Another rule holds: the higher the escalation, the more difficult the denouement.
As Boas Maneiras (Good Manners) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for As Boas Maneiras (Good Manners) here: