This film, which we watched at the Vancouver Film Festival years ago, turned up the other night on cable. On second viewing, the film still packs quite an impact, as it still feels real. The work of Walter Salles and Fernanda Montenegro was amazing then, and still is now.
This is the story about a cynic and jaded woman who resorts to do menial work and who is a small con artist herself. Dora has seen better days. She is retired now, but in order to make ends meet, she sets a letter writing desk at Rio's train station where she writes letters dictated to her by the illiterate and eager people who can't do the job as they want to communicate with distant family and friends through Dona Dora. In many cases, as it's the case with the letter she has written for Ana, she has no intention of ever sending those missives dictated to her by the unsuspecting people.
Josue, the small boy, who witness the death of his mother, is wiser for his younger years than one might suspect. He sees right through Dora as a charlatan and a con woman. When Dora takes the boy home, she has no intentions of ever helping him much more than a few days. Later, upon learning about the adoption agency, she sells the boy to the unscrupulous people involved in the traffic of children for a thousand dollars without any problems. It's only when her friend Irene tells her the fate that Josue will encounter, that Dora leaps into action.
Since she can't stay home without having to return her money, she takes Josue on the road. This odd couple begins the journey as complete strangers, but this voyage will make them appreciate one another and even move Dora into becoming a better woman for having the courage to do the right thing. Josue also realizes that Dora, in her own way, has been, for however short, the mother he lost in the tragic accident.
Fernanda Montenegro, perhaps Brazil's best actress, is amazing as Dona Dora. She is the whole reason for seeing the movie. Her Dora is one of the best creations in her film career. This intense performer shows an actress who fully understand who Dora is and the way she would behave in the situation. Young Vinicius Oliveira is a sweet Josue, and Marilia Pera, is the kind Irene, who makes Dora see the monstrosity of what she was about to do.
The music by Jacques Morelembaum and Antonio Pinto is an asset, as it adds an atmosphere to the long journey of Dora and Josue. The interesting cinematography by Walter Carvalho, shows the immensity of Brazil's interior as the odd couple go to find the little boy's father.
This film is a triumph for both Walter Salles and Fernanda Montenegro.