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'The Way He Looks' at a Brazilian teen navigating the world

'The Way He Looks' at a Brazilian teen navigating the world
Ghilherme Lobo, front, and Fabio Audi in the movie "The Way He Looks." (Strand Releasing)

"The Way He Looks," Brazil's submission for the 2014 foreign-language Academy Award, depicts the coming of age of a visually impaired teen.

Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) and Giovana (Tess Amorim) seem almost inseparable, sitting together in class and linking arms on their way to and from school each day. But then the arrival of Gabriel (Fabio Audi) inadvertently creates an unrequited love triangle. The gender-based assignment of a group project in class brings Leo and Gabriel closer and isolates Giovana.

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Leo endures taunts and other requisite school-yard awfulness, directed at him mostly for his blindness, not his budding sexual orientation. But the youthful indiscretions of his classmates don't seem to agitate him nearly as much as his parents' overprotectiveness.

Given the security provided by his doting family and close friends, Leo comes off as a tad ungrateful. His daily travails depicted here also seem incidental when compared with, say, the lonely plight of the bisexual heroine in "Blue Is the Warmest Color." And with his saccharine ending, writer-director Daniel Ribeiro puts escapist entertainment above meaningfully addressing the challenges faced by disabled or gay youths.

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"The Way He Looks."

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

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