This is one of those films I had been meaning to see for a while, and now wonder what took me so long. It is a Brazilian love story put simply. It tells the story of two brothers, who from the moment they set eyes on one another form a bond that is unbreakable.
Their mother has remarried, so they actually have different fathers, but even she thinks that the closeness of their relationship is odd. They seem to do everything together, and both have a love and talent for swimming. This leads the younger to be chosen to swim in the Olympics. On his return the enforced separation brings the brotherly love of youth, screaming into adulthood, as emotions take on a more physical nature.
That is obviously not the whole thing, there are family emotions and grief, but this is all told in a beautifully poetic way. This is presented as a moving love story, the participants just happen to be half brothers. It has a wonderful musical score too and is both shot and acted superbly. It is in Portuguese with English sub titles, only one problem is when there is some Spanish it comes up in Portuguese, but that didn't really put me off as it is basic stuff.
This is a real 'Marmite' film, you will either love it or really hate it. A couple of my friends who normally share my tastes did not rate this too highly - it could be the subject matter?
I see a lot of films, and there are very few that leave you feeling so enriched after viewing. I can not recommend highly enough, the time flew by and I intend to watch again in the very near future.
on 12 July 2011
I will start my review with the only negative comment that I have about this film: and that is that it fails to deal with any outside pressures or inevitable consequences of conflicts created by the boys' sexuality. There is a single scene dealing with the outcome of a fight that left Francisco with a broken leg...which in itself did not seem to raise any concern beyond the treatment. Are we to assume that this was a case of bullying gone wrong? Beyond asserting that the injury was the result of a fight, nothing more was spoken or done about it.
The first half of the film shows a modern family where the adults, each in their own time, discover that the boys' relationship is resembling something other than a "normal" brother-brother banter. I think it is particularly well acted in each case where the audience can actually read the minds of the characters simply by observing their facial expressions and body language. The actors are so atuned to their roles that the writers were able to save themselves reams of dialogue simply by having the characters summon responses to their thoughts. Honestly, these are performances worthy of the Actors' Studio. The film might have been much longer and with additional drama within the timeline of the large gaps in time which occur in the middle of the film. It occurs to me that something must have happened to alert the boys to the unusual nature of their relationship. In the after-glow bed scene Tom-Tom says: "...to understand our love they would have to turn the world upside down...", indicating that they are aware of the danger of exposure.
But the real body of the film is in the emotional journey of the boys. The depth of their emotion and the delicate nature of their dependance on one another. Interestingly, the only remaining parent seems to have completely accepted the fact that the boys are a couple...one can be forgiven for wondering how realistic this might be. However, we can almost understand this since we are also witness to their conscious decision to NOT reproach the boys early-on once they became aware of the intimate nature of their relationship, when the mother says..."we can't tell them it is wrong...can we?" Beautiful!
The pictures are beautiful, the boys are beautiful, the acting is spot-on and the script is emotional. Thoroughly enjoyable! The romance is so intense that we forget that we are dealing with brothers.
on 4 May 2011
Do Começo ao Fim (English: From Beginning To End) was always going to be a victim of its own hype. The consensus seems to be largely negative, thanks to the perceived lack of insight into the taboo that gets everyone - one way or another - hot under the collar: incest.
Aluizio Abranches' film is a study of two brothers growing up in a comfortably well-off family in Brazil; the mother, a doctor and the father, an artist. We witness the boys - Francisco and Thomás - growing up, from Thomás' birth through until the boys' twenties.
It's slow and meandering, progressively building a picture of an unusually intense bond between the brothers, against a backdrop of some very handsome cinematography, and an impressive musical score. It's subtle, and understated, but a journey nonetheless, and one punctuated with sudden, startling visceral thrills (yes, there is sex and nudity).
"To understand our love," Francisco, the older brother, says at one point, "they'd have to turn the world upside down."
Hugely profound, his words instantly, and almost certainly, renders the entire audience as a pitchfork-wielding mob, à la Frankenstein. It forces those of us who are fuming, sniggering, or otherwise judging to pause and reflect, and begs the question, "Could any of us possibly understand?"
The picture perfect Cosby Show set-up works equally well for the film as it does against it - we, the audience, constantly anticipate the dark forces of an unforgiving outside world tearing their world apart. Much of the film's audience will similarly be wishing for a moral denouement that sets the boys "straight".
But From Beginning To End is a beautiful film, its soul unblemished by self-loathing, unblighted by prejudice, and free from the scars of a world that seeks to beat to a bloody pulp anything it doesn't understand.
Truly unique - and truly misunderstood - this is a beautiful love story, of a depth and intensity few of us will ever experience, let alone comprehend.
As the brothers' mother says, "I don't know exactly what they are doing... But we cannot tell them it is a bad thing." Indeed.
on 17 November 2010
DO COMEÇO AO FIM ('From Beginning to End'), narrated in voice-over by Thomás, the younger of two brothers, is an engaging portrayal of the lifelong powerful bond between himself and his older brother, Francisco. (Although nowhere acknowledged, it is difficult not to think that this film was inspired by Augustin Gomez-Arcos's sublime novel, Carnivorous Lamb.)
The first third of DO COMEÇO AO FIM focuses on the tenderness of the brothers' early lives, when Francisco is 12-years-old and Thomás 6. The two are actually half-brothers; they live with their mother in Brazil, but Francisco's father lives in Argentina. Despite this marital restructuring, the mother and father remain on good terms, and the portrait is one of a deeply loving and affectionate family. Nowhere is this more evident than between the brothers...
Francisco adores and protects the younger Thomás, while the latter idolises the former. Their mother senses the intimacy that already exists between them, which perhaps accounts for her wistful (yet accepting) sadness towards a love from which she will forever be excluded. Francisco's father in Argentina, too, suspects that their relationship is "too intimate"; in response to his suggestion that they talk to the boys, their mother responds: "I don't know exactly what they are doing... But we cannot tell them it is a bad thing." Refreshing, indeed.
The film jumps ahead fifteen years; both their mother and Francisco's father have died, and the brothers, now in their 20s, continue to live together - their love, affection and physicality undiminished. ("I love you because to understand our love, [people] would need to turn the world upside down.") The (perhaps inevitable) dramatic rupture arises when Thomás is invited to move to Russia for three years, to train as a swimmer for the Olympics. Bereft, Francisco turns to clubbing, and meets a woman who appears likely to create a permanent rift in his relationship with Thomás.
Strong production values and a genuinely superb musical score perfectly round off this unusual love story from writer/director Aluisio Abranches. If there is one hesitation, it is that the film largely avoids anything dark or gritty: the characters are all wealthy, tanned and handsome, and they face few challenges along the way. Indeed, the bold, warm colours of DO COMEÇO AO FIM's sumptuous cinematography seem calculated to present Thomás and Francisco's relationship in an almost idealised, fantasy setting. While this absence of provocation borders tepidly on the artificial, and would usually be cause for frustration, perhaps in the context of this culturally-neglected theme it simply allows the viewer to revel in its carefree sensuality. Highly recommended.
on 19 July 2011
I am sure that the conservative right will have a field day with this film and its subject matter. Love between two brothers (half-brothers) is indeed a story which jars the senses and normative understanding of how things should be. Thomas (the younger brother) says it all when he remarks, that in order to "understand our love you need to turn the world upside down."
Aside from all the moralising of the subject matter, which is inevitable, this is at the end of the day a love story. Controversial it may be, but it is told in a manner which does not offend. Two minorities within one makes for a difficult story, and the Director had a difficult job to transcend the prejudice of same-sex attraction let alone incest. This is where my primary criticism emerges, in that due to the subject matter I feel the director does too much to romanticise the affections between the two brothers. It becomes somewhat spiritual and transcends the rational, with a great deal of emphasis on the all consuming nature of love as it is portrayed often in films. He spends a great deal of time of the two brothers growing up, slowly introducing the all encompassing nature of their affection for each other. Whereas I for one would much rather have understood the transition from juvenile adoration, to adult understanding. Unfortunately, the audience is pulled from that innocence into adult relationship without much explanation. There is no war of thought in either of the two young adults, no hesitation and no explanation of how things became what they are. You are merely placed 15 years into the future, and witness to an already established love affair.
The scripting and story telling could have been remarkable had this transitional period being explored fully, with less time spent of the rationalising and validation of love. Nonetheless this is not a fatal flaw within the film, as the story remains good. Visually it is beautiful, with two exceptionally good looking brothers. Perhaps it is this which makes the story more easy to digest, as your senses are assaulted with a cacophony of beautiful things. The score is superb as is the setting, and the love scenes are both tender and sensual.
An excellent film, reminiscent of "Harry and Max". Whilst I was disappointed at the lack of substance (something very well explored in "Harry and Max") I remain convinced that the film ultimately succeeds. Remarkable considering the subject matter, and the inevitable scorn many would place at its feet.
on 12 December 2012
I think this film demonstrates that sexuality comes in all shades of grey, and that it is very easy to judge relationships by the sexual mores of a moment in time. The film jumps over the period when the older brother is, say, 18 and the younger brother 13, and therefore avoids the issue of whether the older brother could be described as having sexually abused his younger half-brother. Instead we are asked to accept that a strong emotional bond between two half brothers can develop in later life to a beautiful and loving sexual relationship. Looked at in this way it challenges conventional ideas about incest. Indeed there is some scientific evidence to suggest that were it not for strong cultural taboos sexual attraction between close blood relatives would be regarded as "natural". There are of course good biological reasons for close blood relatives not to marry and have children (as the degeneration of the Hapsburg dynasty illustrates). However, of course, gay sexual relationships do not pose the same problems.
on 28 September 2013
On the one hand the topic (the boundless love between two half-brothers in modern-day Brasil) has been carefully chosen and treated with a marvelous lightness of touch. Making the incest a non issue was a deliberate choice just as much as the well-to-do family setting which allows the viewer to concentrate entirely on the love story.
On the other hand direction and script do not keep their promise: they are inadequate and fail to convey the enormous emotional potential.
Capable actors manage to counterbalance the film's flaws somewhat: Júlia Lemmertz in particular is a mother whose love for her family knows no limit; João Gabriel Vasconcellos as Francisco, the elder brother, brightens every scene he is in with his wonderful, vulnerable smiles.
The end result is surely worth viewing but if some scenes stick to the viewer's memory is just because of the charming attractiveness of its young protagonists.
P.S. the film is rated 18+.
In my opinion it is viewable by teenagers as long as a parent is there to do some explaining.
on 12 October 2011
I don't understand why mutually consenting sex - actually eager sex, in this case - between brothers near the same age is a big deal. It's not as if they would produce deformed offspring. That particular taboo makes no sense to me. I suppose people believe it's bad just because everybody else does and they've never bothered to ask themselves, Why?
I'm not advocating gay incest, not trying to force it on anybody, any more than I would try to force ANYTHING on anybody; but the nearly universal horror at the idea of sex between brothers - even in a movie, and even among large numbers of gay men - mystifies me.
I have never been the least bit attracted to my own brother, even though I love him a lot; but two brothers' falling in love in a movie does not make me the least bit uncomfortable. I don't feel compelled to try to twist it into something else that's more acceptable.
People who have said that it's easy to forget that Francisco and Thomás are brothers in the latter half of the movie must really be trying HARD to forget it, because the movie never stops affirming the fact that that's what they are. Fighting that battle while trying to enjoy a movie must detract a lot from the enjoyment.
This is a flawed but very interesting and unusual movie, and I can understand why even the many positive reviews it gets have trouble describing it.
It has been called a fairy tale because Francisco and Thomás seem to live in a dream world as cut off from the real world as Sleeping Beauty in her castle. But aren't all young lovers like that? Isn't that what love and hormones do to young bodies and young minds? Doesn't the rest of the world tend to fall away when the beloved comes into view? That's how it was when I was young.
So to say that this movie is a fairly tale is simply to say that it is a love story. It's an unusual love story, but fundamentally it is just like any other love story in any romance movie since movies began. If anything, its depiction of the all-consuming ecstasy of young love is MORE realistic than most movies are, not less.
Others have emphasized the parents' evident oblivion or even acquiescence to what is going on under their noses, but that seems to me like just another symptom of the irrational taboo I mentioned earlier. It's like: "What those boys are doing is WRONG! Why don't their parents stop it?" But, again, I ask: Why? Who is hurting whom? Nobody that I can see.
When they're children, they simply love each other and love to be together, and they are freely affectionate with each other. Is that bad? Why? Should the mother slap her son when he kisses his younger brother on the head or puts his arm around him or holds him while they sleep? Why? Is fighting better? Is sibling rivalry better than sibling affection? Evidently it is to many people.
Neither of those is what I see as a weakness in this movie. It is true that the movie is unreal, but what seems most unreal to me is not the brothers' relationship with each other or even with their parents. That's just an extraordinarily loving and mutually accepting family, which is almost never seen in a movie or in real life but should be everybody's ideal of what a family ought to be. If that's not the unconditional love people rave about nowadays, I don't know what is.
What seems most unreal to me is the other adults' relationships with each other, the fantastically loving relationships between exes and in-laws and friends who are NOT in love with each other, who are NOT caught up in the heady ecstasy of hormones and young love. That excess of affection is just plain weird.
Another weakness I see is in the dialog. The core story about the relationship between the brothers is fine - it's a love story - but what people say to each other is stilted and awkward, not at all the way real people talk. It's almost like the way people talk in TV commercials. And the problem is not just in the English subtitles, which actually are very good: what they're saying in Portuguese sounds just as phony.
And the final weakness I see is in the direction. The director seems to be trying to make something besides JUST a love story, but what that other something is never comes clear. It feels as if he is intentionally trying to make it an allegory, or an epic myth, or a pantomime, or a ballet, or something else abstract that wrestles constantly with the extremely simple love story which the movie actually is.
The odd scene in which the adult brothers slowly undress for the first time as they face each other across the room is particularly strange, like something out of a kabuki performance. That obscure tension between what the movie is and what the director is trying to make it be doesn't ruin the movie, but it IS distracting.
All four actors who play the two brothers as children and then as adults are very good and very beautiful, inside at least as much as outside. What the director did an EXCELLENT job of is getting straight actors (which I assume they all are) to be so convincingly loving toward each other. Every affectionate gesture, every touch, every loving look is believable and totally convincing. That could NEVER happen in an American or Canadian movie, or even in a European movie, and I've never seen it in any other movie from Latin America. It is a unique and astonishing accomplishment.
The director also gets credit for the movie's other great accomplishment, which is simply that it got made. A movie about love, passion, unshakable devotion, loyalty, innocence, tenderness and limitless generosity between two men is rarer than hens' teeth. The scene in which they exchange wedding rings alone together at home is one of the sweetest, sexiest scenes I have ever seen. I have never seen any other movie that even comes close to the love between these two men, and I have seen hundreds and hundreds of gay movies. This is far from the best of them, but it is the most wonderful.
on 2 March 2014
I don't believe I could have put it better than Zee Jai "Liberator Émigré Éire" s comment - what a totally , stunning, awesome film. It really questions who has the wisdom to define "true love"- what beautiful directing and acting as well. A pity this stunning film could not be seen and appreciated by more people! Straight to the top bunch of my all time classics list- to be watched again and again. To me this is not a "gay" film- it's universal -it's about love- the big one that defies description or limits ; not the lusty one lifetime at a time love. Magic!
on 9 July 2014
I liked this film because it didn't develop as I thought it would. It was understated and beautiful not answering all the questions posed. You felt like you were catching a glimpse of part of a story. This was also frustrating as you are left wanting to know more, but quite genius.
I loved the music and two main actors!