An Indian coming-of-age tale this week and it’s a pretty nice one really. Certainly more joyful than the fucking miserable Duck Butter from last week. Thank God because I was not down for that much introspection again, not for a while anyway.
A rebellious young woman with cerebral palsy leaves her home in India to study in New York, unexpectedly falls in love, and embarks on an exhilarating journey of self-discovery.
Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is a rebellious songwriting teen who attends Delhi University. She also happens to have Cerebral Palsy. She writes music for an indie band which results in her falling in love with the lead singer. Unfortunately, when he doesn’t feel the same way about her, she is left devastated.
Determined to move on from her first real heartbreak, Laila fortuitously receives word that she’s been accepted on a scholarship at New York University. While her father (Kuljeet Singh) thinks it’s too far away, Laila’s mother (Revathy) is determined that she do what she wants and she moves with her daughter to Greenwich Village.
Almost immediately Laila meets a hottie called Jared (William Moseley) who helps her in her creative writing course. At the same time she also meets young activist Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a blind girl of Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent. Enamored by Khanum’s passion and general badassery, as well as her attitude toward her own disability, she quickly falls in love and the two embark on a relationship. They also gladly take on caring duties for one another.
While Khanum seems cool with who she is, Laila finds it much harder to be free as the daughter of a very traditional mother. One who freaks out when she accidentally discovers Laila has been watching porn.
Laila is further confused when she doesn’t just stop being attracted to boys (especially Jared) and things become even more complicated when she has sex with him, something she immediately regrets. Not telling Khanum, the two return to Delhi together for Winter break to stay with Laila’s family. Shubhangini (Mum) still has no inkling of the true nature of their relationship and when Laila tries to broach the topic of her bi-sexuality with her, it backfires.
Will she muster the necessary courage to come out to her parents and find peace in who she is? And will she mess it up with Khanum?
Unfortunately, the family are forced to come to terms with a situation far larger than any of them and this momentarily puts all their differences aside. There are some really touching moments in this movie, not least the ending where Laila takes herself out on a fancy date.
The central performance is amazing and Keochlin plays Laila very well but I was kind of disappointed to find out that she wasn’t really disabled. I’m not sure if this is the right reaction but for a moment there I got excited about true representation of disability on the big screen. When you think about this it’s no different to Daniel Day-Lewis starring in My Left Foot but I hoped we’d moved on a bit by now.
Laila is lovely and joyful though and it does have a very positive attitude. The film is not about disability really, it’s about a woman owning her sexuality, coming of age and gaining independence, and she just so happens to be disabled. I love that.
What did Jill make of this one? Would she lock it in the closet or help it to fly free? Find out here.
Something a little lighter this week, or so you’d think of this seemingly innocuous coming-of-age tale. Whether or not it delivers what we were looking for is to be outlined below but one thing is certain right now: thank God I’m not 15 anymore.
The world is closing in on Greta Driscoll. On the cusp of turning fifteen she can’t bear to leave her childhood, it contains all the things that give her comfort in this incomprehensible new world.
Greta Driscoll (Bethany Whitmore) in new in school. Aged 14 and about to turn the big 1-5, she’s just about the most awkward kid in town, except not really because isn’t almost every kid this age a hot mess? God knows I was.
Anyway, she soon makes a new friend in Elliott (Harrison Feldman) but it doesn’t get off to the best start when she quickly bumps him for the popular girls. These Mean Girls aren’t nice but they decide they like Greta so she shares some agonising break times in their company.
Greta soon wises up though and commits herself to her new friendship with Elliott instead. Her mother Janet (Amber McMahon) is beside herself with delight when she brings him home for dinner. While at Greta’s house, she shares a secret with Elliott about a music box her mother gave her when she was a kid. She tells him the tale of The Huldra (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), a wild warrior woman who lives in the woods.
Living at home with Greta and her mother, are father Conrad (Matthew Whittet) – who has a pretty mean line in Dad-jokes – and sister Genevieve (Imogen Archer), who dates slick local boy Adam (Eamon Farren).
The story comes to a head when, against the explicit wishes of Greta, Janet invites all the kids from school to Greta’s fifteenth birthday party. G loses her shit until she realises it’s causing her folks to argue. When she reluctantly agrees, Janet promises her this is a right of passage she won’t regret.
On the night of the party, Greta has a run in with the Mean Girls, who feel rejected by her preference for Elliott. Jade and her twin hench-women, Amber and Sapphire out her publicly for having small boobs and humiliated, Greta falls out with Elliott too. Right after he’s admitted his feelings might be more than just friendly. Oops.
During the drama, Greta faints (I think) while a mystical creature steals her beloved music box. This leads her into the woods round the back of her home where she runs into the legendary Huldra who saves her from a tricky situation. During her adventures in the woods, in this creepy paralell world, she also meets The Abject Man (Old Gregg, anyone?), The Frozen Woman – and lots of wild and exciting creatures and characters, including French crooner, Beniot Tremet. Who tries to bone her in an extremely icky scene that shouldn’t exist, just saying.
Will Greta get back to her party and real life in one piece, I wonder? Will she make peace with her fifteen year old self – and more importantly, win back her one true friend, Elliott?
Well. I guess I don’t have to tell you there’s one really good way to find out.
While this film is harmless enough and kind of sweet, it also didn’t really do much for me. I went in with a notion that it would concentrate on the human element (in a The Diary of a Teenage Girl way) but instead I got budget Wes Anderson/The Mighty Boosh. Which might be unfair but I don’t care. I found it too try hard and now I read it was based on a play and I think that explains it all. Welcome to amateur hour.
I liked Greta and enjoyed her strength of character but I would have liked more focus on her friendship with Elliott and the conflict with her frenemies. Call me old-school.
What did my good lady wife Jillian think? Would she protect this one from creepy men in the forest or write an insulting song about it instead? Find out here, obvi. You know the rules by now.
IMDB Synopsis: Leonardo is a blind teenager searching for independence. His everyday life, the relationship with his best friend, Giovana, and the way he sees the world change completely with the arrival of Gabriel.
Leo is blind. He’s also a hot-blooded teenager who fantasises about his first kiss, which he wants to be perfect (e.g. not with the school slut). Except he doesn’t believe anyone will ever want to pash on with him (oh honey, just you wait!). His best friend Giovana is a tad protective (maybe a little into him too) which earns her the nickname ‘human walking stick’ from the school bullies which, I feel, needs some work.
Every day she walks out of her way to see him to his gate, because that’s what good BFFs do. Leo takes this in good spirit but is less patient with his parents who are more than a little anxious every time he goes out, comes home to an empty apartment or breathes.
Leo also gets the piss ripped out of him by the obligatory school fuck heads, who mock his loud braille typewriter and imply that he’s gay. Pretty standard bully stuff really, but the kid’s blind, man. There has to be a special section in hell cordoned off for douche bags like Fabio (Pedro Carvalho) who, incidentally is the most irritating character in cinematic history; and not even a very good bully at that.
But back to Leo. One day, on the day he’s having to deal with stupid Fabio, in rocks Gabriel who takes the seat behind him. Before long, Giovana, Leo and Gabriel are thick as thieves, happily hanging out as a threesome but not in that way, obvs – this is a coming-of-age flick not a porno.
While the new friends bond, Leo floats the idea of going abroad with a foreign exchange programme. Even before Gab arrives, Leo has convinced himself that he wants out, to live somewhere alone and gain a bit of independence away from his overbearing family. The Exchange Programme woman is helpful but tells Leo he has to get his parent’s consent plus as a blind person, needs to find a family who’s down with that too. Not that he’s mentioned it to anyone besides Giovana, mind – right now it’s just a thought.
When the boys are paired together on a school project on Sparta (just watch 300 (2006), yo!), they start to become closer and Giovana feels excluded. More than that, she feels like she’s been completely abandoned. One day when they fail to wait for her after class, she goes mental and refuses to speak to either of them.
This only pushes our Romeos closer together. Leo starts to get feelings for Gabriel but doesn’t really know what to do with them. Well, I mean he knows what they mean, but doesn’t push the fact with Gabriel until one night at a party, Gabriel unexpectedly gives Leo his first kiss. N’aw.
This is after Fabio and his crew have tried to play a cruel trick on Leo whilst playing spin the bottle, which is thankfully twarted by Giovana. This leads to another row, but Giovana doesn’t tell Leo what they’d been planning to save his feelings. (See, good BFF!).
After the party, Gabriel tells Leo he was super drunk and remembers nothing, apart from having a row with Giovana (who also kissed him but he declined). Later, on a school trip, it becomes clear to us (but not Leo), that Gabriel is having sexy feelings too, though he doesn’t say anything, just looks angsty.
For the rest of the trip, gossip is rife about Gabriel and the school ho-bag, Katrina (Isabela Guasco), who’s a bundle of fun frankly (and unfairly labelled, I think. There’ll be no slut-shaming in this review). It seems apparent, from all ‘the signs’ that they’ll be getting it on later that evening.
Giovana and Leo make up thankfully, and Leo takes the opportunity whilst they’re alone and drinking to confess that he thinks he’s in love with Gabriel. Giovana does not react well and stomps off, though a few days later comes back and apologises, saying that she thinks they’d make a cute couple and that she just needed to get her head around the idea of him being a great big gay (to paraphrase).
Later, Gabriel and Leo are alone and they talk about the kiss and then… lalalala I’m not telling you!
To the questions section… Will our heroes admit their true feelings to one another? Will Giovana ever get over her jealousy? Will she meet her own special prince? Will Fabio just fuck off already, please?
Will Leo’s parents ever let him go abroad on his own? And will he still want to?
How fit is Leo’s dad? And finally, ain’t love just grand? (Especially young, innocent, boy love?)
Meh. While this is a sweet film, I found it all a little bit after school special. I mean, I like the characters and all, I like the angst but there just wasn’t enough oomph for my taste. God, has Wetlands ruined me for nice, gentle and romantic films now? I sure hope not.
There is an innocence about The Way He Looks that’s refreshing but it needed an extra push to take it from okay to great. I’m not sure what my suggestion would be. Just a bit more attitude I think; some sass.
That said, Ghilherme Lobo is really good as Leo. I’m pretty sure from the half-arsed research I did for one minute that he isn’t blind irl, which makes him a bloody acting genius in my eyes, as he was very convincing.
The theme of independence that runs throughout it is also quite a touching one. How frustrating it must be to want freedom so badly but have all control held just out of your reach. This is something I remember from being a teenager, but the added challenge of being blind must amplify the resentment.
Leo’s parents mean well and they’re nice, loving people who care. Leo’s grandma is also a big part of his life (even though I’ve failed to mention her until now) and she’s pretty cool too. When Gabriel picks Leo up to go and work on their assignment, she just knows, you know?
There are some really nice moments, some light comedy and all in all, it’s perfectly fine. Not something that will stick with me, even given the final scenes, which are very, very adorable.
My Rating: 3/5 – *shrug*
What does my partner in crime, Jillian make of this little number? Find out here soon!