O Outro Lado da Rua (2004)


(director/writer: Marcos Bernstein; screenwriter: Melanie Dimantas; cinematographer: Toca Seabra; editor: Marcelo Moraes; music: Guilherme Bernstein Seixas; cast: Laura Cardoso (Patolina), Fernando Montenegro (Regina), Luiz Carlos Persy (Detective Alcides), Raul Cortez (Judge Camargo), Miguel Lunardi (Regina’s Son), Eliana César (Camargo’s Daughter); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marcos Bernstein/Katia Machado; Ventura Distribution; 2004-Brazil-in Portuguese with English subtitles)
“A geriatric love story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Marcos Bernstein, the writer for “Central Station,” in his directorial debut brings us a geriatric love story that hides for awhile behind being a Rear Window-like thriller. Melanie Dimantas is co-writer with the director. Its strongest asset is that Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro, the charming star from “Central Station,” has the lead role and props the dullish film up on her stooped shoulders and soulful looks of despair. The 65-year-old Montenegro plays a wealthy Brazilian retiree and divorcée who takes up snooping on the neighbors and in Rio de Janeiro’s hot night spots in the Copacabana district frequented by the swinging young as a police informant (she’s part of the police department’s senior citizen program and has the code name Snow White). Regina is estranged from her only son, his wife and her grandson (she takes him out for friendly chats) because he’s allowed his father (someone she detests) to live with him. Her best friend is her dog Betina.

The plot moves forward when the lonely woman, who doesn’t seem to have a life of her own, uses binoculars during the evening to spy on her neighbors and witnesses in the apartment building across the street what may or may not be a man murdering his wife by giving her a lethal injection. When Regina informs her contact on the police department, Alcides (Luiz Carlos Persy), he responds and discovers the person she’s accusing is a prominent citizen above suspicion, retired Judge Camargo (Raul Cortez). After Alcides is chewed out by his superiors for embarrassing the elderly Judge, he suspends her from the program. Regina is still convinced he’s a murderer and connives to keep running into the suspect in their fancy Copacabana neighborhood. This leads to an awkward romance between the two morose seniors.

The supposed quirky thriller never created much suspense and the predictable romance story was almost unbearable in its corny sentimentality, but what Bernstein does really well is set the table for how a lonely heart urban person can be so repressed and beaten down that she can imagine only the worst of things in what she sees and be unaware that seeing doesn’t always add up to believing. The film’s aim is to show how it’s important for the seniors to find something useful to do with their lives and not give up on finding love and meaning in their life. You’ll get no arguments from me on that score.