Film Review: The Moving Creatures

Potentially off-putting, 'The Moving Creatures' blends unlikely genre elements in a surprisingly endearing way.
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Brazilian-born writer-director Caetano Gotardo takes a bold chances with The Moving Creatures, his debut feature. Not only are the characters of its three stories unrelated but, stylistically, the conclusions of each tale become radically different from what comes before: Just when you least expect it, kitchen-sink realism gives way to musical expressionism. Critics and audiences will be divided over all this experimentation, yet at least the film lingers indelibly in the memory.

Even though there have been a great many multi-part films before The Moving Creatures, it always risky to develop a project where no single character or actor is allowed to stand out. The three stories center around the theme of modern-day motherhood, but they all feature ensemble casts. In the opener, a mother (Cida Moreira) discovers a dark secret about her teenage son when the police come knocking on the door. The second story involves a young mother (Andrea Marquee), her husband (Romulo Braga), and a tragic occurence that shatters them both. The third and final tale unites a mother (Fernanda Vianna) and the teenage son she hasn't seen since he was an infant.

The most daring aspect of Gotardo's approach is to end each story with the mother character singing of her plight. Up to these moments, the direction, acting, lighting, design and so forth are gritty in their naturalism. In fact, several wordless scenes show characters in deep thought for long periods. But unlike the grandious silliness of “Cop Rock” or Magnolia, the musical portions are softly sung in a nonprofessional manner that is in keeping with both the tone and mise-en-scène. Of course, some viewers will never get used to this conceit. Others will find it novel and refreshing.

All the actors do a great job. Vianna is especially moving as the mother meeting her grown son for the first time. Gotardo shows maturity in his steady, slow pacing and low-key shooting style. (Heloisa Passos' camera barely ever moves and most of the shots are long takes.) This is a more-than-promising directorial debut, well worth seeking by adventurous moviegoers.

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