By Kevin B. Lee
[Editor's Note: This is the latest entry in House contributor Kevin B. Lee's Shooting Down Pictures, a record of his ongoing quest to see every title on the list of the 1000 Greatest Films compiled by They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?]
The Sundance aesthetic was vindicated—at least in terms of awards and box office—by this Sundance Labs project that announced Brazilian cinema's resurgence in the late '90s (culminating in 2002's City of God). This story of the unlikely bond between selfish city dweller Fernanda Montenegro compelled to help lost child Vinicius de Oliveira find his father in the countryside becomes a parable for a nation in search of its soul. It's a journey that delivers its protagonists from a compressed cityscape of random violence, organ trafficking and overall nastiness to an expansive pastoral oasis decorated with familial empathy and spiritual exaltation. Central Station is a work of rehabilitation, for a nation's soul as well as its film industry.
Setting aside the film's significance to its nation's cinematic emergence, I can't say I can drum up much enthusiasm for this film beyond faint praise. As expected of a Sundance Labs project, it seems to do everything it sets out to do, checklist wise: unlikely cross-generational pairing of adorable child who unlocks a curmudgeon's redemptive maternal instincts; adrenalin-churning crime movie episode; picturesque countryside road trip; unassailable social consciousness agenda. Add to that some Oscar-worthy acting and impeccable lenswork and its as polished and audience-friendly as it can be.
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