October 17, 2018 Good Manners (Movie Review)
Every new person we meet can open up an entire new avenue in our lives, and, truth be told, we never know where these pathways might lead. Consider the doorways opened by a new job, which, in this instance, turns the life of one very unsuspecting woman upside down in the Fantasy/Horror offering Good Manners. Released on March 21, 2018 in France, Good Manners arrives to DVD in the USA on Tuesday, November 13th thanks to Distrib Films.
Secretive and wealthy twenty-something Ana (Marjorie Estiano: Pages of Life series, Side by Side series) is in need of a nanny for her unborn son, someone who can help around the house with cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Stone-faced, lonely Clara (Isabél Zuaa: Joaquim 2017, Under Pressure series) has some nursing training that she hopes will get her the job in Ana’s posh, modern condo overlooking the São Paulo skyline. Tired of struggling to pay her eccentric landlady, Dona Amélia (Cida Moreira: Flower of Desire 1983, The Moving Creatures 2013), and toiling at dead-end jobs, Clara is hoping for a change in her luck when she meets Ana.
It quickly becomes apparent that much of Ana’s outward life is but a façade: she is struggling with financial issues thanks to being disowned by her family, and was recently forced to break her engagement after cheating on her fiancé and becoming pregnant with the other man’s child. Fortunately, none of these facts turn Clara away and, as the two women begin to grow closer, a sexual tension develops. As her pregnancy progresses, what also develops for Ana are a plethora of sleep-related issues, from sleepwalking to episodes of insomnia that all seem to revolve around the full moon. When, on one evening, Clara opts to follow her sleepwalking boss out into the city, she will witness something truly horrifying that will place a unique, new spin on Ana’s situation and flip this story upside down.
Clocking in at 130 minutes in-length, Good Manners (originally titled As Boas Maneiras) was written and directed by the talented team of Marco Dutra (When I Was Alive 2014, The Silence of the Sky 2016) and Juliana Rojas (Hard Labor 2011, Necropolis Symphony 2014). The film also stars a quartet of superbly-talented youngsters, all making their acting debuts: Miguel Lobo as the adorable Joel; Felipe Kenji as Maurício; Nina Medeiros as Amanda; and Teobalda, the cat.
Good Manners – which is presented in Portuguese with English subtitles – is many things, and its billing, as a Fantasy/Horror offering, is close to reality. This is a film that glances with an almost modern fairy-tale-like eye at material that is an easy blend of both Fantasy and classic Horror elements. However, do not mistake this for a gruesome blood-and-guts Slasher, no: this plays out more as a Drama (with some Musical elements tossed in for fun) set in the most ridiculously unrealistic of circumstances. Which is not to say that Good Manners is goofy, no: it’s an intriguing film that holds its viewers interest, though it would definitely benefit from a decreased run-time.
The bulk of the weight of the production rests upon the shoulders of Zuaa (Clara), who not only provides a phenomenal acting performance but also sings several of the tracks on the film’s lovely soundtrack. It is clear that Zuaa is a true acting talent, as she manages to make a film that is completely preposterous seem somehow believable; her calm demeanor throughout is the anchor that this fantastical production truly needs to keep it from never feeling cheese-tastic or farcical. As Joel, little Miguel Lobo is equally awe-inspiring, a superbly talented young star who brings a level-head to his own bizarre role. It cannot be easy to be a child actor charged with playing such a pivotal, hair-raising role, and yet Lobo does it with a smile beaming in his intense eyes.
Bottom line, Good Manners is an intriguing if ludicrous story that makes for a truly enjoyable and unique watch. The beautiful cinematography brings the many colors and dimensions of São Paulo to life on the screen, providing a realistic basis for a fantastical tale. With its stellar acting, lovely soundtrack, excellent special effects, and bizarre genre-bending plot, Good Manners is surely worth a bucket of popcorn and a moment of your time. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Good Manners 4 of 5 stars.