This could easily have been a dreadful wallow. It’s based on a true story about an impoverished woman living in the Brazilian countryside who has three children by three different men, none of them her husband. She manages to maintain something close to a happy household with two of the children, two of her lovers and her seemingly clueless spouse. All the elements for an exercise in the rampant sentimentality of nobly persevering peasants are in place. But the horrid, life-affirming romp that the premise promises never materializes. Instead the film is droll where it could have been raucous and gently persuasive where it could have been pushy.
Much of the film’s charm comes from two unexpected qualities. The first is its sunbaked Sergio Leone-esque landscapes and steady-gaze use of Cinemascope, courtesy of director Andrucha Waddington and cinematographer Breno Silveira. This gives the story an unusually high eye-candy quotient (with equally seductive ear candy being supplied by Gilberto Gil). The second is the memorably erotic charisma of its lead actress, Regina Casé, a nearly inexplicable thing in itself, inasmuch as she resembles a cross between Frances McDormand and that guy who used to play Bentley on “The Jeffersons.” But like Anna Magnani, Ms. Casé’s homeliness is only a first impression and she radiates an earthy beauty not much seen on screen of late.
The story proceeds in an anecdotal manner and winds down to a quiet conclusion, and its low-keyed progression may seem undernourished if you don’t connect to its quietly antic mood. Personally, I was thankful for every opportunity for low comedy that was ignored and every moral about enriching suffering that was untold.
Me You Them is a comedy without many laughs, but with a pervasive feeling of good humor toward its scuffling, happily amoral characters. Its like a film Buñuel might have made if only he’d possessed a sunny disposition.
Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward, Detroit), Friday through Sunday. Call 313-833-3237.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at email@example.com.