Until the very end of Daniel Ribeiro’s “The Way He Looks,” when all the flirtatious words and actions are consummated, I found myself wondering if it could really even be called an LGBT film. The attraction between the two leads just feels like a beautiful friendship, one sorely needed for bullied blind student Leonardo.
Any romantic angle in Leonardo’s relationship with the newest addition to his class, Gabriel, seems attached by his homophobic schoolmates. Ribeiro captures the instinctual, learned bigotry of teenage boys with a stunning accuracy that rings as true in the United States as it presumptively does in the film’s setting of Brazil. Yet in spite of taunts and hateful slurs thrown his way, Gabriel refuses to cave and abandon Leonardo.
For most of “The Way He Looks,” it seems like Leonardo and Gabriel simply share a gentle connection with some vague undertones of attraction. For Leonardo especially, who has never really had a companion of the same gender, it feels like he might just be adding a sexual component to their friendship due to the lack of both in his life thus far.
A part of me almost wished it had remained up in the air whether or not the relationship between Leonardo and Gabriel actually had a sensual dynamic to it at all, or whether it would eventually blossom into something of that kind. The third act of “The Way He Looks” pretty much settles the debate – I don’t think this really counts as a spoiler, since advertisers have labeled the film gay – by providing a pretty conventional romance genre ending to the proceedings. I would probably be more upset or disappointed, except it was just so charming and sweet. B- /