SXSW FILM 2014
By Don Simpson | March 13, 2014
Director: Fernando Coimbra
Writer: Fernando Coimbra
Starring: Milhelm Cortaz, Leandra Leal, Fabiula Nascimento, Isabelle Ribas
When Sylvia (Fabiula Nascimento) arrives at her six-year-old daughter’s school, the teacher seems a bit surprised and confused by her presence. Sylvia’s daughter, Clara (Isabelle Ribas), was just picked up by a woman who claimed to be one of Sylvia’s neighbors; and, earlier, the teacher received a phone call from a woman claiming to be Sylvia who notified her that the aforementioned neighbor would be picking up Clara.
A Wolf at the Door quickly transforms into a mystery as the Rio de Janeiro police investigators attempt to locate Clara. Unfolding in the form of a non-linear puzzle, as the facts are revealed, writer-director Fernando Coimbra flashes back to those moments of the narrative. The three main participants in the unraveling of the mystery are Sylvia, her husband, Bernardo (Milhem Cortaz), and Bernardo’s 25-year-old mistress, Rosa (Leandra Leal). At first, they each tell differing stories that seem to contradict each other. It is a confusing narrative technique, at least until we realize that Coimbra wants us to pick and choose which stories we want to believe.
By the time Rosa breaks down and tells the “real” story from start to finish, we are left questioning the authenticity of her perspective. It is undeniably obvious that Rosa is motivated to present herself in a sympathetic light, painting herself as the real victim, in order to justify her actions. Using hot button issues like pregnancy, physical abuse and forced abortion, Rosa puts the audience in an extremely difficult position. Do we believe that she is the victim of this story or is this all just an ingeniously elaborate ruse to manipulate our opinions? Like the police investigators, we will never know the whole truth, we can only join together the disjointed pieces of the puzzle and derive our own conclusions. But no matter how much of Rosa’s story is true, this entire situation is clearly Bernardo’s fault for being the adulterer. If Bernardo would have only kept his dick in his pants and resisted Rosa’s temptation, none of this would have ever happened. Coimbra’s agenda seems to be a promotion of faithful marriages, while also commenting on the importance of gun control.
Eerily inspired by real events, A Wolf at the Door presents us with every parent’s worst nightmare, which unfolds in a methodical pacing that is as menacing as the creeping camera zooms (by cinematographer Lula Carvalho). The slow, meandering story may test the patience of some audiences, but the masterful unfolding of the narrative pieces will most likely win A Wolf at the Door some critical acclaim.