It is difficult to compare Me You Them to any films out now, or anything else that has come down the Hollywood pipeline lately. For one thing, the movie was probably produced for less than the price of a breakfast for the cast of Titanic. The closest thing to a special effect is a bus driving down the road.
Director Andrucha Waddington does not concern himself with artificial action or, for that matter, storytelling technique. He simply wants to tell the tale of a few common people in rural Brazil. Apparently his approach has gone over well with the global film community – Me You Them (Columbia TriStar) has received many accolades at film festivals across the world.
The movie, which is based on a true story, centers on Darlene, played by Brazilian star Regina Case (Moon over Parador). Darlene lives in the boondocks of northeast Brazil, where farming is the way of life and amenities such as electricity are out of the question. Darlene’s mother has just died, and she wants to escape her mundane life to the city. But her plans change when a grumpy curmudgeon Osias (Lima Duarte, The Oyster and the Wind) proposes marriage, and Darlene surprisingly accepts – probably because she needs a roof over her head.
It turns out that Osias is nothing but a lazy, domineering slob who sits on his hammock and orders Darlene around all day. Despite the situation, Darlene bears a child – her second – and reluctantly does what she is told.
Darlene soon tires of Osias and decides to seduce his cousin Zezinho (Stenio Garcia, At Play in the Fields of the Lord), a kind, gentleman who is happy to help out around the house. Osias invites Zezinho to live with him, and in no time Darlene gives birth to her third child, this one of a noticeably darker color.
Darlene falls to temptation once more to confuse the situation when a strapping young traveler, Ciro (Luis Carlos Vasconcelos, Midnight), passes through. Osias asks the traveler to stay until he finds better living, and just like that there are three men, all pining after the same woman and living under the same roof.
The lifestyle of Darlene and her husbands is neither fast-paced nor exciting – which is reflected by the film’s pace. Every 20 minutes or so a couple of years nonchalantly pass by onscreen, and there is no mention of the exact amount of time elapsed. The film moves at a sloth’s pace, so those who like action in their films should be warned.
If this was an American film, the protagonist probably would have filed for divorce within the first 10 minutes, gotten a makeover and gone to New York City to make a fortune, all while living with four sexy supermodels and spying on Freddy Prinze Jr.
But this is Brazil, and life’s – and the plot’s – options are limited. Some might argue that the film is a sort of misogynistic fantasy, and that Darlene is a man’s dream woman, willing to put up with anything as long as she has another man lined up in the future. American audiences unfamiliar with northern Brazilian lifestyles may not identify with some of the movie’s themes.
Waddington offers a film different than ones American audiences are used to, and opens a new window of the world. Instead of finances, Darlene uses her love of people – both in and out of the bedroom – to maintain her spirit. Despite the meager surroundings, director Waddington attempts to show that the interconnectedness of human beings can lead to happiness anywhere.
Me You Them is in theaters Friday