'Campo Grande': TIFF Review

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
A surprisingly unmoving orphans-in-distress pic.

Two abandoned kids get little help on the streets of Rio.

Set in the streets and apartments of Rio de Janeiro and its suburbs, Sandra Kogut's slow-starting Campo Grande is proof that a helpless child onscreen is no guarantee of easy viewer engagement. We get not one but two abandoned preschoolers here, left by their mother at the doorstep of a middle-class woman who doesn't know them. Though not indifferent to their fate, this self-occupied woman can't see why they should be her problem — and too many viewers will feel the same way for this pic to have much import value in English-speaking territories.

Carla Ribas plays Regina, a divorced mother in the process of moving out of her apartment when the doorman finds young Rayane (Rayane do Amaral) outside holding a piece of paper with Regina's name and address on it. After making some calls trying to figure out what to do with Rayane and her brother Ygor (Ygor Manoel), who turns up before long, she unsuccessfully tries sending them home with her housekeeper. The frightened kids are a handful, urinating on the sofa and ruining curtains, and finally Regina at least gets Rayane situated in an orphanage. But restless Ygor, bent on hunting down a mother who told him she'd "be right back," is harder to corral.

It isn't until halfway through the long-feeling film that the camera connects with the boy, watching his face as he marvels at Regina's daughter Lila (Julia Bernat) playing John Lennon's "Love." But the picture is too distracted by some anemically imagined broken-family angst between the mother and daughter; uninteresting as part of the children's story, it makes sense only as evidence of character failings that Regina can formulaically overcome by finding deep inside her some reason to care what happens to Ygor.

Things pick up when Regina gets some clues about the vanished mother, driving to far-flung rough neighborhoods with Ygor and picking up leads about what has happened to his family. But this relatively involving action goes nowhere, and the film's closing scene is a sour twist offering little hope about the power of maternal love.


Production companies: Tambellini Filmes, Gloria Films

Cast: Carla Ribas, Ygor Manoel, Rayane do Amaral, Julia Bernat

Director: Sandra Kogut

Screenwriters: Sandra Kogut, Felipe Sholl

Producers: Flávio Ramos Tambellini, Laurent Lavolé

Director of photography: Ivo Lopes

Production designer: Marcos Pedroso

Costume designers: Diogo Costa, Thaís de Campos         

Editor: Sergio Mekler

Sales: Films Distribution

No rating, 108 minutes