Writer-director Alexandre Moratto’s debut narrative feature Socrates gets its UK release this week, with the seventy-one minute feature packing a powerful, gritty emotion into its short runtime. The Brazilian drama captures a sincere, authentic narrative without glossiness – feeling like a naturalistic snapshot of the distressing fate that befalls a young, gay São Paulo teenager.
Beginning after his mother’s sudden death, Socrates, a 15-year-old living on the margins of São Paulo’s coast, must survive on his own. As he faces isolation because of his sexuality, his search for a decent, worthy life reaches a breaking point.
Within its grasp Socrates explores homophobia in South America, whilst also showcasing the distressing fate of struggling youth in Brazil. Moratto casts a truly natural eye on proceedings from its raw and hearty performance from lead actor Christian Malheiros to cinematographer, João Gabriel de Queiroz’s artistic depiction of the dangerous yet beautiful Brazilian setting. Crafted with a mostly teenage crew (as part of a project to involve low-income Brazilian youths in filmmaking), the film has a scrappy, handcrafted feel that helps thrust us into Socrates’s fast-paced, often concerning life.
Lying about his age to attempt to gain a job in local shops, Socrates is ultimately unsuccessful, but finds work in a scrap yard where he meets silent-type Maicon (Tales Ordakji). Beginning as foes, the pair soon begin a romantic relationship, with Moratto using this to showcase the inherent homophobia found in the city. A tense, well-shot sequence on a beach which sees romance turn sour, begins to showcase the fracturing unstable nature upon which Socrates’ new relationship is built upon. Maicon’s unconventional home life, further damages the stability and affection that Socrates craves from his new acquaintance.
Struggling with his grief throughout the narrative, Socrates has the added weight of coping with his sexuality in a homophobic and poverty-stricken environment, yet the heart of the feature is the theme of resilience and Socrates’ strength as a survivor navigating a challenging world. We see the teenager delve into prostitution in a distressing scene in the film’s latter act – yet he turns away from this. These moments and others like it of strength and fighting against the odds, help make Socrates an endearing, heartening watch.
A quiet yet masterful performance from Christian Malheiros takes us through Socrates’ troubling journey in a calm but wonderfully emotive manner. The young actor carries a weighty emotional impact on his shoulders throughout the film’s runtime, continuously feeling authentic and natural when doing so.
Socrates hits select UK cinemas and digital from September 4th.