Review: Brazilian film ‘Good Manners’ a magical blend of horror and social drama

Marjorie Estiano and Isabel Zuaa in a scene from “Good Manners.” Credit: Cinema Tropical
Marjorie Estiano and Isabel Zuaa in a scene from “Good Manners.”
(Cinema Tropical)

If you watched just the first half-hour of Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra’s “Good Manners,” you’d have no idea that it is, ostensibly, a gothic horror picture. From the title to the tone, this barbed Brazilian genre exercise presents itself as a subtle social drama — right up until it becomes a film about werewolves.

Isabél Zuaa stars as Clara, an unemployed São Paulo nurse hired to be the nanny for privileged, eccentric mother-to-be Ana (Marjorie Estiano). Ana’s too casually intimate, and makes unreasonable demands, but Clara needs the work and finds her boss’ quirks oddly attractive — even when the full moon compels Ana to sleepwalk through the streets and eat stray cats.

Rojas and Dutra (who co-wrote and co-directed) take their time. They hold impeccably composed shots for a long time and never telegraph where their story’s going. Excise some scenes and this could be a subdued study of class-divisions, race-relations and star-crossed romance.

But “Good Manners” doesn’t throw away its fantastical elements. Between the detailed makeup effects, colorful sets and lavish musical score (with songs!), there’s a reason why the credits thank Walt Disney. They could just as easily cite Guillermo del Toro.


This is a different kind of monster movie, no doubt. It’s beautiful and magical, and as aware of the real world as it is of classic Hollywood. “Good Manners” is a haunting tale of love — and the burdens that come with it.


‘Good Manners’

In Portuguese with English subtitles

Not rated


Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Royal, Santa Monica; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena

Only good movies

Get the Indie Focus newsletter, Mark Olsen's weekly guide to the world of cinema.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.