Title: Good Manners

Also known as:
As Boas Maneiras (Original title)

Year: 2017

Genre: Drama / Horror / Fantasy

Language: Portuguese

Runtime: 130 min

Director: Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas

Writer: Juliana Rojas & Marco Dutra

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5480782/

When Clara is looking for a job as a nanny and ends up working for the wealthy Ana, her life changes drastically. In Ana she finds a friend and partner, but something is wrong with Ana every month when the moon is full. Is it simply the struggles of pregnancy, or is she cursed?

Our thoughts:
I don't think it's giving too much credit to say that José Mojica Marins (Coffin Joe) made many of us take note of Brazilian films, and horror in particular. More recently filmmakers like Rodrigo Aragão ("Mangue Negro"), Júlio Bressane ("A Erva do Rato") and Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro ("Beyond the Grave") have created works that we've covered on the site. Despite being aware of these filmmakers, it seems like there is so much left to uncover in Brazil and South America as a whole. The latest I've been really interested in watching is "Good Manners", by Marco Butra and Juliana Rojas. They're quite prolific in their work, yet this is the first time I watch one of their films. You know me, I had to watch this knowing it was a werewolf movie alone, but I did not expect this wonderful take on the genre!

Clara is an unemployed nurse in São Paulo. She applies for the job as a nanny, and despite an awkward interview she lands a job to work for the wealthy but quirky Ana. Ana is pregnant and wants Clara to help her with things at home before the baby is born, and then continue to work there as the nanny. The two of them are very different, but they find strength in each other and develop a strong relationship. But there is something going on with Ana; every full moon, she sleepwalks to find something to eat. Clara suspects that the unknown father of the the child Ana is carrying is the cause of this behavior.

To expect a traditional werewolf movie in "Good Manners" would be crazy. This is extremely drama-heavy, but it also respects the werewolf lore, and gives it an interesting meaning. Much like how "Ginger Snaps" uses female adolescence to talk about the werewolf curse, "Good Manners" does it with pregnancy. The movie doesn't end when the child is born, however, and the werewolf allegory carries over to the growth of a child and how genes and the behavior of parents always will have a say in their lives. You know, the whole "sins of the fathers" thing. I am sure that the movie could have worked well as a straight-forward horror movie too, but this drama/fantasy blend makes for a very intriguing watch. It doesn't overstay its welcome by being over 2 hours long either, because there is so much to take part in because it takes place over a long period of time.

I really became invested in the struggles of Clara (Isabél Zuaa) and Ana (Marjorie Estiano) through this movie, and found the movie to be quite sad because of it. There is a lot going on in the movie, but the wonderful actresses manage to help the movie feel realistic, despite the beast that may-or-may-not be growing in her belly, by never over-acting even the most outrageous moments. There's a serious feel of concern and tension in their relationship, and that remains the focus instead of the werewolf lore. Again, this reminds me of "Ginger Snaps", which is a fantastic werewolf movie, but also just a damn well crafted story about two sisters. If you expect a lot of gory murders, scary night sequences under the full moon and a lot of screen time for the beast, then you're heading into the wrong movie. If you want to see a great story that uses the werewolf lore in an interesting way, then you'll have a good time here.

I can't review a werewolf movie without commenting on the actual beast itself. Had this been a horror movie that was made to scare the shit out of you, I would probably put a lot more weight in the werewolf. The werewolf in this movie is actually not at all what you expect. It's a solid design, but it's rarely scary. It's not even really meant to be scary, because the movie is about a child's curse, so when the child is eventually turned it is hard not to feel sorry for it. There's a chunk of CGI, mainly in facial expressions, that come off as a bit silly, but it certainly works within what this movie is. I mean, how often do you even see a werewolf child to begin with? Think of the differences between an angry, full-grown wolf and a puppy. It's a very interesting take on it, and it makes me a lot more accepting in those moments of CGI. When thought of as a fantasy, not horror, it works.

I greatly enjoy much of the Brazilian cinema I have watched, but none of them have been of as high standard as "Good Manners". It's a damn well crafted experience. Isabél Zuaa and Marjorie Estiano are excellent in their roles. There's not a bad moment between them! They build a believable relationship with each other and we only want them to be happy (while we know that something that is growing inside of Ana will change that). The script takes its time, but is always on the move so that we won't get bored. New questions are raised and the audience is always put into new scenarios. That a werewolf movie in 2017 can keep me emotionally invested is worth gold to me, because that means that there is still more to find within this rare subgenre. The movie is also really well shot, with beautiful use of lighting and colors. I mean, what more can I say? It's just really well made in almost every aspect.

There is one small thing I didn't get into. There are a few spread out moments in the movie where the characters sing as if it's a musical. At one point towards the end it makes a lot of sense, because it's a song being sung to the kid, but the other random moments took me out of the movie. They just didn't need to be there. If the songs themselves, due to their meaning, needed to be implemented somehow then I would like to think that there are different ways to do that. The way it is now, we're instantly thrown out of the tense drama. Not a huge problem, but I don't understand the decision.

Don't worry, this is still a fantastic movie. If you love werewolves or horror themes used in drama, then you need to check out "Good Manners". It's one of the strongest efforts I have seen from Brazil. It makes me wonder what else I have missed from there! It's a movie that probably works incredibly well at film festival, but I just hope the movie is given a fair chance upon its release, because it could be a tricky sell.

Positive things:
- Great use of the werewolf myth.
- Excellent cast!
- Lighting and colors are used wonderfully.
- Long movie that keeps itself moving, so it's never boring.
- Very unique kind of werewolf.
Negative things:
- The musical moments felt weird.

Gore: 1.5/5
Nudity: 0.5/5
Story: 4.5/5
Effects: 3/5
Comedy: 0.5/5

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