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Romão, illiterate and unemployed, feels destiny drawing him on an odyssey to Rio de Janeiro in pursuit of a job and a decent life. A family of seven journeys 2,000 miles across the hinterlands of Brazil on bicycles. Along the way, the story explores the inner dynamics of a family facing a great challenge with the courage to pursue dreams. Written by
Part "Road Movie" and part "Coming-of-Age" film, "O Caminho Das Nuvens" is an enjoyable little Brazilian flick that tells us the story of Ramao, his wife Rose, and their 5 children, as they make their way from "The Middle of the World" in Paraíba to Rio de Janeiro, on bikes, in search of work and a place to settle down.
Shot in Neorealist tradition- similar to film's like De Sica's "Bicycle Thief"- we are not shown the beginning of the family's journey, nor it's conclusion...but, rather, are offered a privileged glimpse into a "slice of (this poor family's) life".
The characters are real/regular people, and as such, could represent any one of the countless number of families' that have made similar journeys from rural Brazil to major urban centers like Rio and Sao Paolo, in search of new oppourtunities and a "better life".
From the start, we are privy to the fact that the family has no set destination, little direction, and even less money to survive on. It seems that Ramao has dragged his family on this epic excursion based on a whim, and a slightly psychopathic desire to find a job that pays "1000 reisas a month"- which he feels he will need in order to take care of his large family.
We follow Ramao and his family and observe the trials and tribulations that they must endure during the six month exodus they have embarked on...
To get by the family relies on the generosity of others...begging, panhandling, busking and doing odd jobs that will earn them enough cash to keep food in their bellies. Ramao acts quite callously toward his family, for a man that relies on them for money and survival. These feelings of inadequacy are likely a consequence of his inability to provide for his family.
Tension starts to develop between Ramao, his wife, and their eldest son Antonio, as Ramao repeatedly refuses job oppourtunities that do not meet his moral or monetary expectations. This is exacerbated when he decides to extend their journey, despite pleas from his tired and hungry family.
As Ramao comes to grips with the fact that his dreams and expectations are, in all likelihood, not going to be realized, the film begins to focus on the relationship with his teenage son Antonio.
At the beginning of the film, Ramao treats Antonio like he is an unwanted burden- constantly putting him down- though it seems the family wouldn't be as safe without him. We watch as Antonio becomes more independent; getting his coming-of-age experiences at various stops made by the family along the way. By the second half of the film it becomes clear that, despite their somewhat tenuous relationship, Ramao has been trying to get Antonio ready for life on his own.
As the family nears their next (final?) destination, the film goes out on an emotional note....though we never do find out what fate has in store for them. I guess this is a comment on, "life being about the journey, not the destination".
"The Middle of the World" is a simple, heartwarming film about a family on a journey. The locations and cinematography are beautiful and the acting is pretty good. It's also worth mentioning that the actor playing Ramao (Wagner Moura) looks a helluva lot like Johnny Depp!!! Definitely worth a watch, 6.5 out of 10.
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