Sunday, March 14, 2021

Stuck between cultures in Maya Da-Rin's serene, sad and beautiful immigrant-in-his-own-country tale, THE FEVER

It was not until the finale of THE FEVER that I realized how much in common this lovely little movie has with one of 2018's best films, Leave No Trace. Not that this is in any way intentional, but the ending of the two films are remarkably similar, as is the father-daughter bond in both, as well as hero's inability to handle the culture/society in which he is living. While the father in Debra Granik's film has PTSD, you might easily see the condition of the dad in Maya Da-Rin's new movie as a kind of incipient traumatic stress disorder.

Dad, you see, is a native of an Amazon tribe who, with his now-deceased wife, left his village two decades ago for a better life in "civilization." The past (as well as an ever less positive present) is now making itself felt in alternately strange and unpleasant ways.

As co-writer, Ms Da-Rin (shown at right) keeps things simple and believable, subtle but suggestive. As director, she has a keen eye; her film is slow, precise and beautifully composed. 

Da-Rin is blessed to have cast in her leading role of Justino a non-professional but quite excellent actor, Regis Myrupu (above and below, left), who commands the screen about as quietly and securely as I've yet witnessed from a non-pro. The role of his daughter, played by non-pro newcomer Rosa Peixoto, below, right, is equally well-handled, as are most of the film's many supporting roles.

Our hero's job at the port -- simply standing and keeping alert -- has got to be one of the most boring ever conceived, and while doing it he encounters both casual, nasty racism from a co-worker and some remarkably adept, by-the-book, not-quite-harassment from his firm's human resources branch. 

On his way home from work at night (above and below), the lure of the rainforest -- the city of Manaus borders the Amazon -- attracts Justino mysteriously and quietly, though probably the least successful portions of the film have to do with his dreams/fantasies/maybe actualities of being pursued by some rainforest creature or being. 

And then there's that titular fever, a low-grade, off-and-on symptom, that bedevils our hero and which his daughter attends to as best she can. 

Family meals provide some respite and communication (and more background for us viewers), and we learn that the daughter, a nurse, has been accepted into a medical school in Brasilia, which means she'll soon be leaving the fold. A visit from Justino's brother and sister-in-law from the tribe helps bring all this to a troubling head.

The great triumph of The Fever is how much we come to feel for (and fear for) Justino, who never complains nor even grows angry (on the surface, at least) at anything he is given to endure. When, finally, he makes a decision, I can't imagine that you'll be able in any way to disagree with it.

Distributed by KimStim, in Portuguese with English subtitles, and running 98 minutes, the movie opens this Friday, March 19, at cinemas (virtual and maybe some brick-and-mortar) across the country. Click here then scroll down to view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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