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Risking the possibly fatal move of commenting on a subject I will never be truly qualified to comment on, I dare to mention love and filmmakers’ perennial fascination with it. For obvious reasons, many movies are made about love just as there are many movies about hope and triumph and comedy and tragedy and so on. Just as obvious, however, is that love is worth all the fuss.

In The English Patient, we see Katharine argue with Almásy that adjectives matter as she enumerates “[r]omantic love, platonic love, [and] filial love” with her husband mentioning his favorite type of love, “Uxoriousness…excessive love of one’s wife.” The Green Mile showed us how sometimes love, even if it is innocent, can kill. And then Love Actually presented us with a grounded yet triumphant story about love that worked so well, perhaps, because 9/11 had just happened, and we were all especially receptive to our better angels. Chilean-borne Brazilian filmmaker Jorge Durán attempts such a feat with his newest film, Love Is All We Need ((Não Se Pode Viver Sem Amor).

In a move that’s no longer standard practice, Durán opens with credits against nothing more than a black backdrop featuring an artful rendering of something seemingly abstract until it pans out as the title.

Immediately memories of Tim Burton’s first Batman film flashed in my mind as it felt it’s been that much time (it came out in 1989) since I’ve seen such effects. While this isn’t true – M. Night Shyamalan is a fan of the classic opening credits, for one – it might as well be. But some films need the extra time to prepare the audience, for what they’re attempting to do needs for us more of a tabula rasa than vice versa. The careening wobble of the animation as well as the dramatic scoring discombobulate us into this realm of impartial clarity.

Once the credits have rolled, we are introduced to the little boy, Gabriel (Victor Navega Motta), and what appears to be his mother, Roseli (Simone Spoladore). And then we are introduced to Peter (Ângelo Antônio) and Gilda (Fabiula Nascimento) and finally to João (Cauã Reymond). We know at some point the lives of these people will intersect, and we know that love will have something to do with it all. What looms in much of the movie, however, is that this ending might not be a good thing. Can love truly bring them all together and not become sentimental or even convoluted?

Part of the menace bundled with our expectations has to do with these threats of failure for Durán. To pull off such an exquisite dénouement would call for a miracle. It’s no surprise, then, that miracles seemingly happen over and over again to our characters.

While not quite magical realism, Durán quickly introduces us to what could be instances of magic starting with the very first scene. Time and again, there are moments challenging us to think, What if or perhaps just straight out WTF? This uncertainty creates enough room to remain calm and rational for not only us in the pews but the characters as well. The scoring affords us much less room.

Evoking gravitas with muscular phrasing and arpeggiated chords in keys characteristic to such unease, Diego Fontecilla’s marvelous score helps along the discomfiture even when things seem to be going well. At times, there’s a resemblance to Clint Mansell’s stunning score for Requiem for a Dream. Thankfully there are moments of levity when Fontecilla channels something much more lyrical with the confection of delicate vibrato and operatic vocals balancing out the melody.

Adding further buoyancy to the film is the humor. While it’s always difficult to make someone laugh — philosophers such as Henri Bergson have spent much time theorizing about humor — it is even more difficult to bring in the funny when dealing with a foreign audience. Not for Durán.

During some of the most grueling, incredible moments, Durán manages to orchestrate scenes arousing the audience to not only laugh out loud but guffaw, slap the knee and look into our movie partner’s eyes with incredulity.

Plato was one of the first to attempt to define the different types of love in his Socratic dialogue, “The Symposium.” Jorge Durán attempts to do the same through not just a play alone but with all the bells and whistles of a full-length feature film. While not solving the mysteries of love, Durán teases out of plausible coincidence, epic drama and everyday angst a very different but exceedingly real modern love story that manages to honor just how miraculous love truly can be.

Love Is All We Need (Não Se Pode Viver Sem Amor)
Brazil, 2010, 100 min.
Director: Jorge Durán
Genre: Drama
Portuguese with English subtitles

Featured at the 27th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival

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