Good Luck, Sweetheart (Boa Sorte, Meu Amor): Locarno Review

Sub-tropical homesick blues

First-time Brazilian director pays arty, sensual, poetic tribute to his family roots

LOCARNO - One of the most beautiful words in Portuguese, or indeed in any language, is saudade. Hard to translate, it conveys a nostalgic yearning for a long-lost love, place or time that will never come again. This stylish debut feature by the young Brazilian director Daniel Aragão is suffused with saudade. Following one man’s search for his elusive ex-lover as he leaves the big city for the rural hinterlands, Good Luck, Sweetheartis part love story, part road movie and part visual poem. Following its world premiere last week at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, it will screen again this week at the Amsterdam World Cinema Festival.

Shot in ravishing high-contrast monochrome and drenched in music, Aragão’s atmospheric puzzler makes up for its fragmentary narrative with sublimely lovely sounds and images. After a naturalistic opening in the coastal city of Recife in north-eastern Brazil, the road-trip section of the film moves into increasingly surreal and noir-ish territory that recalls early David Lynch, Lars Von Trier and Wong Kar-Wai. Good Luck, Sweetheart will be a tough sell to non-domestic audiences, but it showcases a fresh new voice in Brazilian cinema, and could reward adventurous foreign distributors with a sleeper cult hit.

Vinicius Zinn stars as Dirceu, an aristocratic playboy working in the demolition business, tearing up Recife’s crumbling old neighborhoods to make way for office blocks and condos. He begins a romance with Maria (Christiana Ubach), a luminously beautiful young music student from a poor family in the same rural backwater as him. When their relationship falters, Maria disappears back to their shared ancestral homeland, and a desperate Dirceu sets off to find her. But this sentimental journey only leads him into a twilight zone of class conflict and culture clash, a stranger in his own land.

Aragão’s semi-autobiographical story first began to take shape his grandmother’s funeral, when he realized his generation of Brazilians – born in the early 1980s – would be the first to lose all contact with their rural family roots. This personalized message lies at the heart of Good Luck, Sweetheart, but the film could just as easily be enjoyed as a purely sensory experience. A former cinematographer, Aragão and his DP Pedro Sotero are masters at making simple movements, such as Maria settling down to play the piano, into gorgeous slow-motion set-pieces. Music fills almost every scene, from vintage soul and disco tracks to the throbbing score by Finnish electronic musician Jimi Tenor.

Good Luck, Sweetheart is not without its first-film flaws. Pace is uneven, and character motivation murky. The opaque plot and fable-like finale will leave some viewers frustrated. The sound mix at the Locarno screening also seemed jarringly discordant in places, while the fuzzy visuals were sometimes lost in inky shadows –whether these were deliberately arty effects was unclear, but they did not enhance the viewing experience. All the same, Aragão is clearly a promising young talent, and this spellbinding symphony in saudadewill haunt your memory long after the credits roll.


Venue: Locarno Film Festival screening, August 8

Production company: Orquestra Cinema Estudios

Cast: Vinicius Zinn, Christiana Ubach, Rogerio Trindade, Jack Mugler

Director: Daniel Aragão

Producer: Pedro Severein

Writers: Daniel Aragão, Gregorio Graziosi, Luiz Otario Pereira

Cinematography: Pedro Sotero

Editors: Daniel Aragão, Gregorio Graziosi

Music: Jimi Tenor

Sales company: Orquestra Cinema Estudios

Rating TBC, 95 minutes