Solitude as Action
Pedro (Marco Nanini) is a 70-year-old gay nurse, and quite the fan of Greta Garbo. He needs to find an empty bed in the hospital where he works to save his best friend, Daniela (Denise Weinberg) who is transgender. He he decides to help Jean (Demick Lopes), a criminal in police custody, escape from the premises. His hope is that Jean will help him with Daniela in return. But because he is worried about Jean’s health, Pedro sets him up in his apartment to treat his wounds. The two have an affair and we realize something about Pedro’s own solitude and what will be once dying Daniela leaves Pedro’s world for good.
This is director Armando Praça’s first feature film and it has all the relevance of post gay marriage worries, even though its politics are here but a finely attuned love story subsumes everything else. Daniela suffers from kidney failure, and she is panicked to move to the men’s ward. Pedro takes wounded murder suspect Jean out of the hospital and into his home in order to make hospital space for his ailing “Greta.” We flashback and see Daniela singing about love in a nightclub and she seems to be both hostile and tender. These are reflections of what is going on now in Brazil— the tenderness of same-sex love relationships are being threatened by a hostile political regime. The main relationship is between Pedro and Jean. Pedro is a to the death admirer of Greta Garbo’s well-worn solitude motto (“I want to be alone”), and he is brave enough to use this in his own life. His only friend, we see, is Daniela and his contact away from solitude is through casual sexual, club encounters. Like Garbo, Pedro wants “to be alone” too – or so he says early on but things change when he hides a younger man from the law.
The film opens with Pedro wiping mascara from his face as he follows Daniela into an ambulance following serious kidney failure. The police fail to acknowledge Daniela as the trans woman she is and refer to her as “he”. The hospital won’t allow her to stay in the female ward.
When we learn that she doesn’t have long left to live, Daniela tells Pedro that she’s “used to pain”, something which the two of them share in common. We see that pain (as well as lust) when Pedro goes by himself to gay saunas and gay bars, asking strangers to call him “Greta” while they hook up. It’s not until Jean enters his life that Pedro can finally admit that he doesn’t really want to be alone anymore.
Praça uses explicit nudity and sex as he looks at Pedro’s carnal desires with dignity. Pedro and Jean open themselves up to each other and to the audience. Daniela’s cabaret performance is tragic and empowering all at the same time. Praça’s casting choices are fascinating and a story unto themselves. He has a cis-gender actress in the role of Daniela while casting a trans star called Gretta Starr as cis-gender. By doing this, he effectively plays around with notions of intersectionality that are relevant now more than ever.