They Will Return

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

They Will Return
"Riding along on the strength of its central mystery, They Will Return just about gets away with its unevenly paced story and variable acting."

Why did they do it? She was fighting with her brother, Cris (Maria Luiza Tavares) explains. Many parents will understand. They left the kids on the side of the road. Presumably they meant to give them a scare, then loop around and return for them. Only they don't return. The kids wait. They worry. The brother decides to go and look for a petrol station. He tells Cris to stay in case they return. She stays overnight. In the morning, hungry and sore, it's clear that she'll need to take some sort of action.

There's nowhere in the world where the sight of an adolescent girl by the side of a lonely road isn't cause for concern. To complicate matters, Cris is, as a stranger soon puts it, 'very white' in an area where that labels her as being from a rich family. When she's approached by a young stranger who invites her to rest at his home, she has a difficult decision to make, with risks either way. But statistically, most lost kids find more friends than foes, even if we're used to cinema serving up a different story. In this case, it's not cruelty but kindness that opens our heroine's eyes to a different world.

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Riding along on the strength of its central mystery, They Will Return just about gets away with its unevenly paced story and variable acting. Its central conceit - pampered rich girl learns how the other half lives and changes her attitude as a result - may be rather heavy handed, but it's forgivable in a film aimed at the young and its delivery is honest and assured. The poorer characters may be helpful but they are not without their limits and they don't have bottomless sympathy, even when aware of Cris' situation. It is the work she has to do, as much as the decisions she has to make, that propel her toward adulthood. In directly criticising the comfortable bubble-world that is the focus of most new wave Brazilian cinema, writer/director Lordello implies that the medium itself has some growing up to do. The presence of his young white heroine might encourage viewers, too, to undertake a journey to places they would not normally go.

Sullen though she is, Cris proves an intriguing central character, not least because we know so little about her. Newcomer Tavares turns in a confident performance that shifts believably between toughness and childish vulnerability. There isn't much depth to the film, but in as far as it goes it's a journey worth making.

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2014
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Two children are mysteriously abandoned by their parents.


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