Brazil is starting to make itself known in the international film world. With a couple of films ('Cidade de Deus' most importantly) in recent years becoming international successes, a new Brazilian film may today have a bigger chance than ever before of getting good international distribution. Although 'O Céu de Suely' definitely deserves reaching a wider audience than the cinephile crowd, it will certainly not become a blockbuster. It's a slow, thoughtful, angst ridden movie with controversial themes.
The main character in 'O Céu de Suely' is Hermila, a poor young mother returning from the big city of Sao Paulo to her small hometown and the family she left behind abruptly a few years earlier when becoming pregnant. She returns home involuntarily because city life has not worked out for her but she does not intend to stay. 'O Céu de Suely' is not 'Cidade de Deus' and its setting is not the favela, which is nice as a contrast to most other Brazilian films reaching these shores. Neither is it, like the many Brazilian soaps, set among the wealthy in the gated communities in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Its setting is a small, underdeveloped town where the best one can hope for is drawing the winning ticket in a raffle.
Hermila is young and naive but also strong minded and resourceful. She loves her infant son, the grandmother who raised her and the aunt who is her closest friend in her hometown but she is really a self-centered person who can not set her own needs and desires aside for those of her loved ones. She feels the need to escape the mundane life and limited opportunities of the small town. Like millions of poor Brazilians, and poor people in rural areas around the world, she dreams of another life, somewhere else. But she needs some money to get going. Setting up a raffle with a bottle of whisky as prize can get her some money but not nearly enough. Hermila is beautiful, lively and attractive and she knows it. She can see that her body is her most valuable asset in the society she lives in. But can she use that asset to get somewhere without losing too much of her dignity and the respect of her family? Does she care, or can she simply ignore the conventions of the people around her? Is there a way to get past the limited options seemingly available to her? And is love a possibility or just another trap?
'O Céu de Suely' is a movie that favors naturalistic acting before big narrative developments and plot twists. The camera work is slow and beautiful. The characters, all bearing the same name as their actors, feel very real. The focus of the film is not on the starving but on people who are not needing the necessities of life but the things beyond that. The wealthy are not at all present here but we don't need to see them. We know the world is unequal and we know Brazil is one of the most unequal societies in the world. This film is a welcome illumination of that society and the most world-changing force today - the urban migration. It is also a quite nice film about one particular woman and her painful choices. Worth watching if you're not easily bored.
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