Be careful what you read about Good Manners. A film of two very contrasting halves, it would be a great shame to have any of the surprises of the second half spoiled for you by over enthusiastic film reviewers. These critics may mean well (some of them), but Good Manners is a film to savour with next to no knowledge of what is in store for you. This review contains no spoilers for the second half.
It’s safe to say that right from the opening credits, Good Manners has a storybook, fairytale feel to it. A specific font used in the opening credits and elsewhere in the film reminds that this is a film that will be more fantastical than it at first appears. It starts with care worker Clara accepting the position of live-in nanny to the as-yet unborn child of wealthy, single Ana. But while the two women immediately form a close bond, it soon emerges that Ana is hiding a very dark secret about her gestating offspring.
To say any more would be to ruin the unexpected direction that Good Manners swerves in its second half. Suffice to say, the first half is social realist, fuelled by two intense performances from the two leads. Both Isabel Zuaa and Marjorie Estiano are by turns vulnerable and strong bringing great depth to their characters and investing the relationship with real heart. How their relationship develops is the first of many surprises that Good Manners has to offer, and the story is already intriguing enough with just these two women staying put almost entirely in one location.
But it’s the second half that will delight genre fans, flipping the tone and changing the scenery for the rest of the story. While Clara and Ana have been largely locked away in Ana’s luxury apartment overlooking Sao Paulo, the remainder of the film takes place down on the streets where Clara lives on the outskirts of the city. There is also a major jump in time, allowing the viewer to see a huge development in Clara’s character as she contends with a major new challenge in her life.
Good Manners becomes increasingly complicated to categorise with writer/directors Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra unashamedly throwing in elements of a love story, horror, fantasy and social realist drama. Hell, it even throws in a couple of musical moments for good measure. It’s a film of many bold transformations (both literal and structurally) and it balances heartfelt emotion with some knowing laughs, as it gets more outlandish.
It’s one of those films that needs to be seen to be believed. Dealing with desire and death, growing pains and inequality, Good Manners is truly unique and surprisingly touching come the finale. See the original, just in case Hollywood dares to remake it.
GOOD MANNERS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTORS & SCREENPLAY: JULIANA ROJAS, MARCO DUTRA / STARRING: ISABEL ZUAA, MARJORIE ESTIANO / RELEASE DATE: TBA
Expected Rating: 6