260 user 73 critic

Central Station (1998)

Central do Brasil (original title)
R | | Drama | 20 November 1998 (USA)
1:54 | Trailer

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An emotive journey of a former school teacher, who writes letters for illiterate people, and a young boy, whose mother has just died, as they search for the father he never knew.


Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 36 wins & 21 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Isadora
... Irene
Vinícius de Oliveira ... Josué
Soia Lira ... Ana
Othon Bastos ... Cezar
Otávio Augusto ... Pedrão
Stela Freitas ... Yolanda
Matheus Nachtergaele ... Isaías
Caio Junqueira ... Moisés
Socorro Nobre ... Dora's Client
Manoel Gomes ... Dora's Client
Roberto Andrade ... Dora's Client
Sheyla Kenia ... Dora's Client
Malcon Soares ... Dora's Client
Maria Fernandes ... Dora's Client


Dora, a dour old woman, works at a Rio de Janeiro central station, writing letters for customers and mailing them. She hates customers and calls them 'trash'. Josue is a 9-year-old boy who never met his father. His mother is sending letters to his father through Dora. When she dies in a car accident, Dora takes Josue and takes a trip with him to find his father. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The motion picture for people who want to feel that they have shared a very special emotional experience... instead of just another night out at the movies! See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

Official site | Official site |  »





Release Date:

20 November 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Central Station  »


Box Office


$2,900,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$35,710, 22 November 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$5,595,428, 11 July 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Vinicius de Oliveira, a shoeshine boy, beat out more than 1,500 other young actors for the role of Josué. See more »


When Dora got off the bus leaving Josue behind, she entered a diner, and in the view of the wall off to the side there were three stacks of plastic red crates containing empty soda bottles. Following a quick cut away and return to the same view, there's only one stack of red crates, the others were replaced by two stacks of larger milk style crates of different colors. See more »


[first lines]
Dora's Client: [dictating a letter] My darling, My heart belongs to you. No matter what you've done, I still love you. I love you. While you're locked in there all those years, I'll be locked up out here, waiting for you.
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Featured in The 71st Annual Academy Awards (1999) See more »


Preciso me encontrar
Written by Candeia (music & lyrics)
Performed by Cartola
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Masterful Montenegro Dominates Salles' Career-Defining Road Movie
17 May 2008 | by See all my reviews

Like Gena Rowlands in this country (who ironically did a similar film, 1996's "Unhook the Stars"), Brazil's Fernanda Montenegro is a masterful actress who inhabits her characters wholly with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of personal depth. In this beautifully filmed 1998 film directed by Walter Salles, she offers a superbly realistic portrayal of an aging, embittered spinster named Dora, who earns money by writing letters for illiterate passers-by at Rio de Janeiro's Central Station. At the outset, she is a petty thief who takes the letters and decides with her friend Irene which ones to post if at all. Her dull world changes when Josué, the nine year-old son of a woman for whom Dora has written a letter, suddenly becomes orphaned when the woman is killed by a speeding bus. The letter was to be sent to Josué's father to reunite the family. Now his plight gradually becomes Dora's concern, and over the course of the film, her destiny.

What Salles does with great dexterity is show the gradual closeness between Dora and Josué without resorting to any obvious sentimental plot devices, as neither is particularly sympathetic at the beginning and use their surly, obstinate personalities as protective shells. Even though this story has an overly familiar structure, Salles and screenwriters João Emanuel Carneiro and Marcos Bernstein bring a heavy dose of neo-realism within the unfamiliar, non-tourist locales used. It's all reminiscent of Vittorio de Sica's and Roberto Rosellini's classic post-WWII work in Italy like "The Bicycle Thief" and "Open City". With his later film, 2004's wonderful "The Motorcycle Diaries" and now slated to film Jack Keroauc's seminal "On the Road", Salles is obviously becoming known as a master of the road movie, and it is easy to see why with this work. Helping considerably is the stunning cinematography of Walter Carvalho, who presents vividly inhabited tableaux with each new phase of the journey from the bustle of inner-city Rio to the open roads to the religious pilgrimage to the new shoebox-style settlement.

But it is Montenegro who dominates the proceedings as she gradually develops a character who earns our sympathy economically and honestly as she makes every moment count. For example, as she senses herself becoming attracted to Cesar, the religious truck driver, she applies a stranger's lipstick with a quivering hesitation that is almost as heartbreaking as the realization she faces moments later that he has left for good. A real shoeshine boy picked by Salles, Vinícius de Oliveira plays Josué with equal economy and responds to Dora's actions with realism that alternates between touching and frustrating. Smaller roles are filled expertly with Marília Pêra amusingly ebullient as Irene and Othon Bastos compellingly conflicted as Cesar. The climax comes a bit out of left field with the introduction of new characters that provide some amount of closure to Josué's fate and wrap up many of the open plot threads, but the somewhat pat turn does not undermine the genuine strength of the film.

The DVD provides a nice extra with Montenegro, Salles, and producer Arthur Cohn contributing invaluable audio commentary in English. Salles and Cohn talk about the sources of inspiration for the movie as well as the more technical aspects including the rigors of location shooting with masses of amateur actors and a minimum of art direction and constructed sets. Montenegro speaks less, but like her performance, makes all her comments resonate. It's interesting how variations of the film's basic plot have come up in recent years - for instance, Jan Sverák's 1996 "Kolya" from the Czech Republic and Takeshi Kitano's 2000 "Kikujiro" from Japan - and this one certainly holds up well as a prototype.

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