Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"A cheery little comedy which wears its heart on its sleeve."

Looking down at Lucas (Paulo Sousa) from her balcony, his aunt Lourdes (Juliana Zancanaro) - the woman who has raised him - cannot conceal her worries. He's such a quiet youth. A good Christian boy, yes, but always on his own. She wishes that the right girl would come into his life.

Shortly afterwards, Lourdes receives a piece of news. Another of her nephews - a second or third cousin of Lucas, who has never met him - is seeking a place to stay after completing a short prison term, his father having made it clear that he's no longer welcome at home. This is Mario (Thiago Cazado), who, as it happens, arrives when Lourdes is away for a few days. He's everything that Lucas is not: confident, outgoing, playful and completely bereft of any hang-ups about his body. Within half an hour of arriving he's stripping off to take a shower in full view of the startled Lucas, who is not at all used to things like this and takes the earliest opportunity to make his excuses and leave. What follows is a loosely structured game of cat and mouse as Mario flirts in ever more outrageous fashion and Lucas struggles to fend him off whilst maintaining polite decorum - both of them pretending throughout that nothing unusual is going on. Of course, it's obvious to the viewer that Lucas is also trying to fend off his own desires, and that he won't be able to (ahem) keep it up forever.

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It's rather a shame that this film is in Portuguese because it's such an idiomatic language that subtitlers are presented with a real challenge in translating all the innuendo into different tongues. There is, however, plenty of other crude humour that translates well enough - and all of it with a lighthearted charm that keeps things entertaining throughout. None of it is quite as unsubtle as local teenager Julia (Duda Esteves), whose request for piano lessons, which she uses as cover for a series of increasingly desperate attempts to seduce Lucas, is fooling no-one, but even she is shown a degree of sympathy by a script which acknowledges how intense passions can be at that age. Practically every character has the potential to surprise those around them - even Frank, the little dog whom the boys take out for walks.

A cheery little comedy which wears its heart on its sleeve, Cousins interweaves a sweet (albeit rather unlikely) tale of first love with a comedy of manners which, in its turn, pokes fun at the hypocrisy of some uptight Christians. It doesn't pit homosexuality (or extramarital heterosexual lust) against religion, however, doing its level best to promote happy endings for all. It's cheeky, provocative, at times profoundly silly, but if you're looking for a feelgood piece of entertainment with a bit of softcore erotics thrown in, it hits the spot.

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2019
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Young Lucas lives with his religious aunt in a quiet country town. But this little agitated life is with the days counted when the charitable aunt announces the arrival of another nephew Mario, just out of jail.

Director: Mauro Carvalho, Thiago Cazado

Writer: Thiago Cazado

Starring: Thiago Cazado, Paulo Sousa, Denis Camargo

Year: 2019

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: Brazil


Iris 2019

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