Central do Brasil
(Central Station)

central station

Central do Brasil (Central Station)
Made in: Brazil
Language: Portuguese
Directed by: Walter Salles
Starring: Fernanda Montengro, Vincius de Oliveira, Marília Pêra
Year: 1998

Synopsis: Dora (Fernanda Montengro), a former school teacher and now a bitter, middle-aged spinster, works at a train station in Rio de Janeiro. She writes letters for illiterate people, many of whom have emotional messages to share.

But Dora doesn't even send them. Instead, she either throws them out or shares them with her friend Irene (Marília Pêra). As their evening entertainment, the two cynically scoff at the lives of those poor people.

One day a woman named Ana (Soia Lira), and her son Josué (Vinícius de Oliveira), ask to have a letter written to Josué's father Jesús, whom the boy has never known. Although Jesús is pretty much a deadbeat, Josué desperately wants to meet him.

At first, Dora is indifferent to Ana's wishes, and has a good laugh over the letter when she shows it to Irene. But when Ana is suddenly killed in an accident and leaves Josué with nowhere to go, Dora reluctantly tries to take care of him.

Eventually, the conscience-stricken Dora agrees to help the boy find his father, and the two embark on a journey to a remote village in northeast Brazil. What follows is more than a long trip, however. As they meet a variety of characters along the way, Dora confronts the memories of her own estranged father as their adventure turns into a life-changing experience for both of them.

Remarks: Although Central do Brasil is about a journey to reunite a boy with his father, the greatest strengths of the film come from the development of the main characters.

Dora, a liar and scammer, often tries weasling her way out of hard situations while condemning others for doing the same. Fernanda Montenegro does an outstanding job playing this deeply flawed protagonist, whom we start out hating and end up liking.

This is very much a story about the impressions we have of those closest to us, either real or imagined, and how those thoughts influence the way in which we see the world. In Josué's mind, his father is practically a larger-than-life hero that he's invented in order to deal with his pain.

But Fernanda assumes that Josué's father is a worthless drunk, and much of her actions during the journey are influenced by the memories of her own drunkard-of-a-father from ages ago.

The combination of psychological motivation, religious metaphors, and commentary on poverty in Brasil all work together seamlessly to shape Central do Brasil into a heartfelt, and at times, heartbreaking drama.

Who would like this movie: This movie's for you if you're very familiar with life in Brazil, or if you're an experienced viewer of foreign films. Although it's not a depressing movie, it's best if you're in the mood for a deep human drama.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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