The Middle of the World is a road movie on bicycles. It is freely adapted from the true story of an unemployed truck driver who, with his wife and five children, pedals from Paraíba, in the poverty-stricken Northeast of Brazil, all the way to Rio de Janeiro looking for a job.Â RomÃ£o (the father) feels destined to earn 1000 reais (about 300 US$) a month â€“ a vast sum for Brazilian standards. On four bikes, the family goes through five states, knows solidarity and indifference, aggressiveness and cordiality.Â A 2000-mile odyssey through the hinterlands of Brazil all the way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's best-known postcard.Â The Middle of the World shows the quest for the dream of a decent life â€“ a story of dreams and hope.
April 9, 2004
Road to Rio
By Ethan Alter
Although the territory it covers is familiar, this Brazilian import, based on a true story, has its heart in the right place. An impoverished family, led by proud patriarch Ramao (Wagner Moura), an unemployed truck driver determined to find a well-paying job that can support his wife, Rose (Claúdia Abreu), and their five children, uproots his family from their home in the Northeast and embarks on a quixotic 2000-mile bicycle journey to Rio de Janeiro. But with no money and only four broken-down bikes among them, they must beg, borrow and — in one shameful instance — steal in order to reach their destination. They also wrestle familiar family problems: Ramao and Rose argue about money and food, while the kids are always squabbling among themselves. Meanwhile, sullen eldest child Antonio (Ravi Ramos Lacerda) is starting to assert his independence by openly challenging his parents and defying their orders; he eventually refuses to travel with his family any farther. Instead of forcing him to continue, Ramao agrees that Antonio should go his own way, but it isn't long before the boy begins wondering whether he has made a huge mistake and gets back on the road to Rio, reuniting with his family just before they enter the city. Like the grimmer CITY OF GOD (2002) and BUS 174 (2003), director Vicente Amorim's offbeat road film offers a compelling depiction of the challenges facing poor Brazilians. Amorim keeps his focus on family drama rather than larger social blights like crime and drugs, and the result might be a little too sanitized — it ends on a hopeful note that feels a slightly disingenuous in light of the family's harsh experiences on the road and the difficult future they face. But for the most part, Amorim and screenwriter David Franca Mendes offer an honest portrayal of the characters' poverty that never degenerates into gooey sentimentality. The actors, particularly Abreu, work hard to flesh out their roles; her fiery performance keeps Rose from coming off as a shrill nag. Although not what American studios generally mean by "family fare," this drama is actually excellent family viewing — it both opens a window onto another culture and, through Antonio, speaks the universal language of teen angst.
--Eric Alter/ TV Guide - Review
April 8, 2004
By Chuck Wilson
Like a man madly searching for the Holy Grail, Romão (Wagner Moura), a young father of five, has loaded his wife, Rose (Cláudia Abreu), and children onto bicycles for a 2,000-mile ride across Brazil in search of work. Even though his family is starving, Romão refuses to accept anything but a high-paying job, and so it falls to Rose to scrounge for food money, by begging strangers for help or singing pop songs to tourists for change. Reportedly based on a true story, this engrossing, soulfully acted road movie from first-time director Vicente Amorim finds its heart in the ongoing tug of war between Romão and his teenage son Antonio (Ravi Ramos Lacerda), who both worships and abhors his father. Amorim and screenwriter David Franca Mendes are efficient, inclusive storytellers who do justice not only to a struggling family but to the working-class Brazilians who offer them assistance, from the inhabitants of a town that survives by making hammocks, to swooning worshippers at a Catholic shrine. Although the film's ending is abrupt and unsatisfying, Amorim's filmmaking is as urgent as Romão's need to keep moving, with swooping, questing camera work that brings an old-world family drama into our fidgety, insistent present.
--Chuck Wilson/ LA Weekly - Review
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