Eye For Film >> Movies >> Liquid Truth (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Rubens (Daniel de Oliveira) is a swimming instructor. It’s a job he loves – he might be teaching kids in a small provincial pool in Brazil, but it’s clear that he thinks of himself like some kind of Baywatch star. His swagger has its charm and clearly hits the mark with his attractive young girlfriend, but it stems from a self-centredness and concomitant naivety that could get him in trouble. Admiring 12-year-olds’ scantily clad pictures on social media – and showing them to his colleagues – is not a smart move. But things get out of control for Rubens when he’s accused of inappropriately touching one of the boys in his class.
Liquid Truth is an exercise in carefully balanced sympathies that always keeps us guessing. Just because Rubens can be obnoxious doesn’t make him a child molester. Just because he’s shaken by the looks he starts getting in the street and the spray paint on the side of his car doesn’t make him innocent. In the absence of any hard evidence, boss Ana (Malu Galli) wants to stand by her employee, but she doesn’t want to disbelieve a child who says he’s been assaulted (even if she only hears it through his parents, who may or may not have embellished the account); caught in a moral quandary, she tries to maintain a noble position and essentially does as little as possible. The focus here, despite the title, is less on the truth and more on how different people respond to uncertainty.
Taking in the multiple ways that social media is impacting our moral landscape, screenwriter Lucas Paraizo gives a modern twist to an old story. Director Carolina Jabor brings a visual clarity at odds with the murkiness of the story, using the water in the swimming pool, the pale, open sky and the big glass windows alongside the pool as visual metaphors. There’s a sense that the situation ought to be clearer than it is, and this tempts the viewer to become complicit on one side or another. This, in turn, deceptively suggests that the problem is a simple one – even if Rubens has not touched the boy, is it really so different that he should be taking a sexual interest in a girl just a few years older?
De Oliveira gives an impressively complex performance and one that doesn’t depend on taking one clear position or another. Rubens’ increasing awareness of his own vulnerability is enough to keep him interesting. Though we see fairly little of the children, their naturalistic performances contrast effectively with the controlled work by the older actors to highlight the concern at the heart of the story. Though its refusal to come down on one side or another may frustrate some viewers, this is a bold piece of work with a lot to say.Reviewed on: 04 Mar 2018