Movie Review: They’ll Come Back

They'll Come Back
They'll Come Back

Presented as part of the recent Glasgow Youth Film Festival, ‘They’ll Come Back’ is a film with a killer central conceit.

Two teenagers are warned by their fed-up parents to stop quarrelling in the back seat of the car or they’ll dump them beside the road and never come back.

They continuing arguing and, shockingly, the parents seemingly follow through with the threat.

Thus begins Brazilian director Marcelo Lordello’s coming of age story - centering on 12-year-old Cris, whose troubles become magnified when she is swiftly also abandoned by her awkward older brother Peu.

Her meandering journey home (reminiscent of that taken by Jenny Agutter’s character in the 1971 classic ‘Walkabout’) takes her on a tour of the class divisions in modern day Brazil, moving from slum to middle-class beachside idyll.

Everything is refracted through the prism of Cris’s sheltered background and nascent sexuality - every sight and experience slaking her fearless thirst for new experiences. Initially adopted by a saintly family living in a roadside favela she soon jettisons her new friends, attaching herself instead to an old family friend on the run from responsibilty.

The differences in financial wellbeing between the haves, have-nots and never-will-haves are stark.

Young actress Maria Luiza Tavares carries the entire film on her narrow shoulders, giving Cris a maturity beyond her years while never fully jettisoning her childlike needs.

Her supporting cast are unshowy and naturalistic, allowing the young star in their midst to shine.

The direction is also unfussy and restrained, letting the acting and changing landscape - portrayed in a series of stunningly cinematic long shots - speak for themselves.

Ultimately though, the journey is more rewarding than the destination.

The final reel sees Cris return home and the nuanced social commentary turns more clunky, particularly in its cartoonish caricature of the upper echelons of Brazilian society.

It’s saved by an unexpectedly tender ending, pulling back from painting ever-broader metaphoric brushstrokes in favour of drawing the story back to a more personal thunbnail sketch.