Sócrates: A beautifully performed slice of Brazilian social realism

Review: This tale of a 15-year-old living by his wits features wildly charismatic performances

Christian Malheiros in Sócrates. Photograph: Querô Filmes

Film Title: Sócrates

Director: Alexandre Moratto

Starring: Christian Malheiros, Tales Ordakji, Jayme Rodrigues, Vanessa Santana

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 71 min

Fri, Sep 4, 2020, 05:00

   

After his mother’s sudden death, Sócrates (Christian Malheiros), a 15-year-old living by his wits on São Paulo’s coast, has little or no time for grief. With the rent already overdue, he fills in for his mother at her cleaning job, suggesting that she’s taking yet another sick day.

Displaying a seemingly infinite capacity for rejection, the youngster bounces from shop to stand desperately looking for work. His age precludes him from all but the murkiest of sectors, including a temporary gig as a junkyard worker alongside the aggressive similarly-aged Maicon (Tales Ordakji). The latter unexpectedly calls Sócrates with a job offer that, in fact, is just a pick-up line. It works, and a blazingly passionate affair ensues. 

The title character’s struggles continue to snowball as he roams the streets looking for food and lodgings. His fear of encountering his father (Jayme Rodrigues) is established early for reasons that become horrifyingly apparent.     Sócrates opens with what reads like a caveat: “This film was produced by a crew of 16-20-year-olds of the Querô Institute, a Unicef-supported project that provides social inclusion through film-making to teenagers of low-income households in the Baixada Santista region of São Paulo. ”

One might never have guessed as much watching this handsomely mounted, beautifully performed drama. Alexandre Moratto’s debut feature shares DNA with Cathy Come Home and other downward spirals found within Ken Loach’s compelling back catalogue. Like in those films, the depressing circumstances depicted are counterpointed by a rare spiritedness.

Cinematographer João Gabriel de Queiroz’s handheld camera picks up pretty silhouettes against a gritty landscape and occasionally apes the woozy, weakened focus of the hungry protagonist. Moratto and Thanyá Montesso’s script is precise and minimal. Christian Malheiros and Tales Ordakji make for a wildly charismatic screen coupling.