Bereavement, Isolation and Family Breakdown
Alexandre Moratto’s “Socrates” is a stunning and deeply emotional portrayal of a young man’s (Christian Malheiros) journey through bereavement, isolation and family breakdown. “Socrates” empowers at risk young people and their input gives the film a realism and natural delivery that reflects the very thin line between poverty and security in inner city Brazilian society.
Filmed on a very low budget, “Socrates” is the story of 15 year old young man who is dealing with the deeply emotional loss of his mother. We follow Socrates through his struggles in supporting himself while dealing with the loss that has taken his security and opportunity from him.
As a gay young man, this security is further threatened by a distant and disconnected relationship with his absent father; who will not accept his son’s sexuality/
Socrates finds an emotional connection with another local young man, who hides his sexual orientation through anger, frustration and lies and they develop a complex relationship of hidden truths and barriers of expectation in masculinity.
The impact of the film comes from its realism and social reflection. It dares to challenge the audience and the social constructs of the society it represents as we become very aware of the choices forced upon young people in a society where opportunities are limited by income and support. The recent political changes in Brazil of increasingly isolating LGBT young people from their society makes this all the more relevant.
“Socrates” demonstrates the emotional and social power of Brazilian film making by examining the challenges faced by young people at risk. It is a multi-layered film explores grief, identity and societal failures and will remain with you long after the credits roll.
“Socrates” was created in a workshop of young people between the ages of 16 and 20, and is Brazilian-American filmmaker Alexandre Moratto first feature film. It has been winning awards at festivals around the world. As we watch, we discover how powerless he really is: he isn’t even allowed to collect his mother’s ashes. He can’t turn to his estranged father (Jayme Rodrigues) for help, because he’s harshly religious and has rejected Socrates for being gay. So Socrates tries to get on with life, finding a job in a local junkyard. There he meets Maicon (Tales Ordjaki), and they begin a tender romance. But their hot tempers, as well as some other outside circumstances, make this relationship increasingly difficult. Socrates needs to grow up quickly if he hopes to have a future.
Socrates could get help from a persistent social worker if he would accept it but instead tries to do things on his own, even though everyone he turns to abandons him, leaving him to consider unthinkable options like prostitution or suicide. The film remains earthy and honest about even these things and focuses on Socrates’ internal thoughts and feelings rather than the bigger political themes. There’s no overt plot structure here— the narrative traces this young man’s emotional journey into manhood.
Malheiros is superb in the role, delivering an expressive performance that reveals the characters’ inner feelings to the movie audience but not to the people around him on-screen. He conceals himself from everyone and this is moving but also a little scary, because he is a teen dealing with very grown-up issues essentially all by himself. Each knock-back is awful to watch. Scenes with his father are especially painful, because it’s clear that his father’s love is so conditional. Malheiros and Ordjaki have quite a range of powerful textures as they play out the relationship between Socrates and Maicon that starts with a brawl and remains rough-edged even through moments of tenderness.
This is an intimate film in which director Moratto never moralizes about any of the decisions that Socrates makes or actions he takes. We are right with Socrates all the way through his journey of self-discovery and it is not an easy path. Watching Socrates battle against obstacles is darkly moving but this also shows us some big social issues that are rarely depicted in such powerfully honest ways on-screen. We are reminded that most people are struggling and afraid to ask for the help they need.