Socrates, co-written and directed by Alexandre Moratto, is a powerful new Brazillian coming-of-age film. Addressing topics such as grief, poverty, and sexual identity, this is a subtle yet effective movie that may slip under the radar but deserves to be seen.
The film follows a fifteen-year-old boy who, after the sudden death of his mother, must struggle to make ends meet while coping with his grief. As a snapshot of a moment in an individual’s story, the movie is excellent. As a commentary on bigger issues, the film is less effective. The movie does manage to make a connection between the experiences of the protagonist and the larger context in which they fall, but not with the depth that it likely should.
For example, the film’s exploration of the protagonist’s sexuality is somewhat underwhelming. Although some conflict does arise from this part of the character’s identity, it very much feels like a sidebar to the main story about grief. The runtime is just over an hour, so the movie could have taken more time to explore these more nuanced subplots to a greater extent.
However, the film does hit the intended emotional beats with ease. The opening shots of the movie are truly heartbreaking, perhaps some of the most emotionally-involved of the year so far. The film really throws you into its story immediately, much like the protagonist is suddenly thrown into his grief, and as a result, you are able to connect with the character on an individual level more easily.
The protagonist is definitely a sympathetic character and his arc has multiple layers to it. Although there are some parts of his story that work better than others, for the most part, you are invested in the life of Socrates. The supporting characters are predominantly used as ways to further develop the protagonist, so they don’t have much complexity, but they serve their purpose.
Christian Malheiros gives a moving performance in his leading role. From the opening scene, you can tell the amount of emotion that he is going to put into the character. He gives a great performance and is one of the main reasons why the movie works as well as it does. Perhaps most impressive about the film, though, is that the cast was comprised primarily of at-risk teenagers from São Paulo and they do a phenomenal job.
On a technical level, the movie was mostly fine. There isn’t anything particularly flashy about the way in which it was executed, but this elegant simplicity works. The film is shot in a way that emphasizes the emotion in the performances over the style, and as a result, the attention is drawn to the humanity of the story.
Socrates doesn’t do everything it wants to do as effectively as it could, but it is still a well-acted and mostly well-made movie. As Moratto’s feature debut, this film shows that he has a lot of potential to be a great and personal storyteller.
Socrates opens in theaters on August 9 and hits DVD and VOD on August 20.