The Way He Looks is a film centered on Leonardo – a blind teenage boy who wants to find his “great romance.” The film opens with Leonardo and Giovanna, his best friend who has a crush on him, sitting by a pool declaring that this year everything will change. Everything does change when Gabriel joins their class, and Leonardo falls in love with him. Thus begins a coming of age movie centered on the intersectionality of being both homosexual and blind.
The Way He Looks strengths lie in how it broaches the subject matter of homosexual relationships. While most coming-of-age movies reflect heteronormativity, how heterosexual relationships are normalized in media, The Way He Looks breaks this heteronormativity and explores queer cripping. Queer cripping, or the intersectionality of queerness and disability, is a major theme for The Way He Looks, as Leonardo is both queer and disabled. Neither Leo’s queerness nor his disability is a part of his identity. Leonardo is not defined by these traits, he is defined by his actions during the movies. The Way He Looks provides an exemplary look at queer cripping, Leo is comfortable with who he is and he is independent. If one were to contrast this to films with other queer or disabled characters, one would notice that queerness is often made into a characters entire identity (see Bruno) and disability is seen as something to change (such as Avatar). The Way He Looks does not make queerness Leo’s sole identity, and Leo embraces his blindness rather than wish he was never born blind. In fact, the film shows certain benefits to Leo’s disability. Illustrating how impressed Gabriel is with Leo’s ability to read Braille.
With that said, The Way He Looks does have some problems, mummy blaming and slut shaming are prevalent throughout the film. Leonardo and his mother are constantly at odds, while Leo’s father is portrayed as the better parent. For example, Leonardo’s mother constantly nags and babies him, rather than give him independence. Moreover, Leonardo’s mother constantly infantilizes Leonardo by not allowing him to go on exchange, go to a school camp or wander around by himself after dark. Conversely, Leonardo’s father constantly fights for Leonardo putting him at odds with the mother. In no other scene is this illustrated better than in the shaving scene, where Leonardo’s father says he wants to give Leonardo more independence. The dichotomy between Leonardo’s mother and father show mummy blaming throughout the film.
Secondly, slut shaming comes around in The Way He Looks when Karina is introduced to us. Karina is constantly described as a “slut” Giovanni stresses this when she tells Leonardo that Karina would easily “hook up” with Leonardo. Moreover, when Gabriel arrives Karina goes right up to him and flirts, much to Giovanni’s chagrin. Karina is somewhat absolved of her “slut” behaviour when Gabriel stands up for her. While this character trait is often seen in coming-of-age films, it is inexcusable for a film that breaks boundaries to fall back on such a cliché.
Finally, The Way He Looks should have pushed barriers even further by exploring the social construction of love and romance. As previously mentioned, The Way He Looks explores themes previously explored by coming-of-age films, holding the same Hollywood ideal of love and not challenging it. If the film had challenged the social construction of love in media, it would have been much better. Rather than Leonardo finding true love, the film could have explored the fickleness of teenage romance.
One scene that stood out during the film, was the opening scene. The opening scene involves Leonardo and Giovanni resting beside a pool, discussing who romance, and who Leonardo’s first kiss should be. During this scene, one witnesses heteronormative patterns, as they only mention members of the opposite sex for their great romance. These patterns are enhanced with the hints Giovanni gives that she longs to kiss Leonardo, but these patterns are the strongest in this scene because of The Way He Looks genre. Normally, coming-of-age movies focus on heterosexual romances, not homosexual ones. Therefore, with a little background knowledge on the genre one assumes that the film will be about Giovanni and Leonardo falling in love.
I was pleasantly surprised by Reelout. Coming from Toronto and seeing the Gay Pride Parade every year, I assumed Reelout would be very small and almost non-existent. I believed that nothing could compare to Pride, especially in a city as small as Kingston. However, I was pleasantly surprised, I found the turnout to be much larger than I believed and the crowd was very enthusiastic. While some of these people may have been from Gender Studies, the turnout was still much larger than I expected.
The Way He Looks. Dir. Daniel Ribeiro. Perf. Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim, 2014. Film.