BFI London Film Festival: Good Manners (As boas maneiras)

Good Manners
Good Manners (As boas maneiras)
Directed by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra
Starring Isabél Zuaa, Marjorie Estiano and Miguel Lobo
Screening at LFF October 11th, 12th, 13th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

Not quite a fairy tale, not quite a horror movie, Good Manners brings something new to the werewolf genre. Tonally uneven, you wouldn’t expect this movie to unravel as it does – not because it’s clever, but because it evolves rather drastically across its three acts.

Clara accepts the position of live-in housekeeper/nanny for a pregnant and wealthy Ana. Initially, Ana comes across as rich and spoiled, but as the two women grow closer, there is quite a lovely sensitivity to her, and her depths seep through Marjorie Estiano’s layered performance. Ana’s behaviour grows stranger as her pregnancy develops – every full moon, she’s ravaged by a sleep disorder and carnivorous cravings. Clara bears witness to these acts but loves Ana enough to protect her from the truth. One fateful evening, the child is born and is not at all as expected.

The second act sees Clara raising werewolf child Joel, out of her dutiful love for his mother, and now for her own matriarchal love for him. Her loneliness which plagued her before she’d met Ana is no more as she is now a loving mother, keeping secrets from her son. Every full moon, she locks him away, chained to a wall in his “little room”. The werewolf effects are absolutely hilarious throughout as Joel resembles more of an otter rather than a vicious werewolf. But scenes featuring Joel transitioning or coming down from the night’s high are rather tender scenes between Clara and Joel.

The film begins with a very social realism tone which features throughout, but fairy tale and horror tropes dominate, especially in later scenes. The uneven tone and extended running time of over two hours does Good Manners no favours. Some tropes and cliches are taken too far, the social realism not far enough. There are a lot of bizarre elements in this film, enough to detract from the fantasy that directors Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra are trying to build. But, it remains entertaining nonetheless, especially for those who love otters.


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