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We 3

Original title: Os 3

D: Nando Olival / 80m

Cast: Juliana Schalch, Victor Mendes, Gabriel Godoy, Sophia Reis, Rafael Maia, Alceu Nunes, Henrique Taubaté, Cecília Homem de Mello

Three university students – Camila (Schalch), Rafael (Mendes), and Cazé (Godoy) – all meet at a party shortly after arriving in Sao Paulo to begin their studies.  Both Rafael and Cazé are attracted to Camila, and she in turn is attracted to them.  When they agree to move in together at Cazé’s apartment, Camila insists that they be friends only, and that neither Rafael nor Cazé should try to sleep with her.  Rafael abides by the rule, but it soon becomes apparent that Camila and Cazé are sleeping together.  When he realises this, Rafael wants to leave but he persuades himself to stay, his feelings for Camila keeping him there despite the pain of seeing her with Cazé.

Time passes and the three friends complete a university project together, a proposal for a TV show where the actors and actresses use featured products that can be bought via a website connected to the show.  The trio are approached by marketing executive Guilherme (Maia).  He wants to make their idea a reality by creating a show exactly as they describe, but with them as the “stars”.  When they ask how they should behave, Guilherme tells them to be themselves.  They agree, and cameras are installed in the apartment.

The show gets off to a disastrous start, with the trio’s activities failing to win viewers (and more importantly, consumers).  To combat this, the trio decide to highlight their lives more effectively by playing on the notion of their living in a ménage à trois.  Creating scenarios to keep the viewers guessing and intrigued, they become increasingly adept at convincing themselves that what they’re doing isn’t having an effect on their relationships away from the cameras.  As Rafael finds it more and more difficult to carry on with the deception, the introduction of Barbara (Reis), Camila’s cousin, threatens to break the trio’s friendship, and cause Camila to reassess her feelings for Rafael and Cazé.

We3 - scene

A low-key production with an air of improvisation around some of its scenes, We 3 is an unpretentious look at the ways in which love, passion, lust and friendship (words highlighted at the movie’s beginning) can affect people who try to manipulate those feelings without seeing the potential consequences.  There’s a sense of denial about the characters and the way they behave toward each other, as if the lives they’ve chosen to lead, and with each other, were more a matter of expediency than desire (though it does appear initially that Cazé has got what he’s wanted from the start).  As the show becomes more and more popular, and the trio come up with ever more revelatory exploits, denial gives way to understated desperation in their attempts to maintain the fiction of their own lives, both on camera and behind the scenes.  It’s this duality that gives the movie its bite, as the viewer attempts to work out if the three friends are playing to the audience or themselves.

Olival’s script, co-written with Thiago Dottori, has plenty of intriguing things to say about modern day consumerism, but it’s the façade that Camila, Rafael and Cazé commit to that commands the most attention.  Despite all the technical trappings of the show, it’s the human element that holds the attention and thanks to some clever cutting between “reality” footage and what’s “really” happening, Olival is able to highlight the increasing distance the show is creating between the three friends.  That the three of them have managed to live together for four years without the arrangement imploding is a little credulous, and Cazé comes across as too emotionally insecure to be Camila’s choice of partner, but these are minor quibbles, and the movie’s heaping of pretence on top of pretence to protect an already fragile pretence is absorbing enough to offset any reservations the viewer might pick up along the way.

The cast are uniformly excellent, and the three young leads display a maturity in their approach to the characters that augurs well for future performances.  Schalch in particular is a captivating presence, and there’s fine support from Reis as the annoying, always aspiring Barbara.  The apartment is a great physical space that is used to good effect, its various sections adding to the definition of the trio’s inter-relationship.  The cinematography by Ricardo Della Rosa is adroit and purposeful, while the movie is cleverly constructed by editor Daniel Rezende.

Rating: 8/10 – with good location work and the sense of a larger world waiting for the trio to discover outside the confines of the apartment, We 3 is an understated gem of a movie with a real emotional core; heartfelt if occasionally hard on its lead characters, the movie is a welcome addition to South American cinema.

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