Central Station screenwriter Marcos Bernstein’s directorial debut The Other Side of a Street is an enervating love story for the over-65 crowd, a modest character study of lonely elderly urbanites struggling to give meaning to their waning years that poses as a Rear Window-esque thriller. Regina (Fernanda Montenegro) is a divorcee who lives a solitary life in downtown Copacabana, Brazil with her dog, occasionally visiting her grandson but deliberately alienating herself from her son because he lives with her reviled ex-husband. An amateur sleuth for the police department’s “senior service”—in which old folks, saddled with symbolically youthful cartoon code-names like “Snow White” and “Daffy Duck,” provide anonymous tips about crimes—Regina, at film’s beginning, single-handedly uncovers a child prostitution ring being run out of a local nightclub. Shortly thereafter, she spies (with her giant binoculars) a man delivering a seemingly lethal injection to his wife in an apartment across the street, and fingers him—a retired judge named Camargo (Raul Cortez)—to the cops. Rather than becoming a suspenseful investigation of the reliability of sight, however, Bernstein’s film takes a bland turn for the mushy when Regina begins to fall in love with the potentially dangerous gentleman. The gratingly nosy, judgmental Regina initially avoids sex because she’s embarrassed by her stretch marks though she lectures another “senior service” member for wasting her precious remaining years crocheting, and while Montenegro’s performance is a clunky blend of understated elegance and exaggerated expressions, she shares a touching rapport with the morose, mysterious Cortez. Bernstein does a passable job visualizing the couple’s guarded remoteness and subsequent closeness by vacillating between detached long shots and passionate close-ups, but his tiresomely tidy screenplay—with only six (mostly single-trait) characters to speak of, and a predictable outcome in which Regina eventually learns to practice what she preaches by rejecting her self-imposed isolation for love—is so dramatically mild that any poignancy generated by The Other Side of the Street’s bittersweet autumnal romance is eventually undone by an omnipresent atmosphere of innocuous monotony.
Score:Cast: Fernanda Montenegro, Raul Cortez, Laura Cardoso, Luis Carlos Persy, Milene Pizarro, Marcio Vito Director: Marcos Bernstein Screenwriter: Marcos Bernstein, Melanie Dimantas Distributor: Strand Releasing Running Time: 98 min Rating: NR Year: 2004 Buy: Video