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"Lower City": A passionless story of a Portuguese love triangle
Special to The Seattle Times
One can feel the heat and grit of a Brazilian socioeconomic underbelly in "Lower City," but it's hard to feel much else about the film. Even the lust and longing for a woman that divides two men, who are otherwise lifelong friends, is less than palpable.
Deco (Lázaro Ramos) and Naldinho (Wagner Moura) have been as close as brothers since they were children. When they are introduced at the start of "Lower City," they make an arrangement, jointly, with a prostitute, Karinna (Alice Braga), who is seeking passage to the coastal city of Salvador.
Deco and Naldinho have a boat, which they use to run people and things up and down a river. They think nothing of taking turns having sex with Karinna — in the same way one imagines them sharing toys when they were kids — while they transport her to her destination.
The two part company with Karinna in a bar, but then she weaves in and out of their lives afterward, as the men struggle to survive with no work in an atmosphere fraught with violence.
Karinna inspires thoughts in each man of a life beyond their daily economic desperation and fraternal intimacy. As stories of love triangles go, "Lower City" has many familiar elements: a collision of the ordinary and unforeseen possibilities; latent rivalries suddenly exposed.
Yet everything feels obvious and by-the-numbers, as if director and co-writer Sérgio Machado was constrained by archetypes and narrative tradition. The passion and yearning that should imbue this tale just aren't there, making it hard to care.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company