A former collaborator of João Pedro Rodrigues, as co-writer and editor in O Fantasma and Odete, Paulo Rebelo moves into a more mainstream direction with this slight but amiable directing debut, that has been bewilderingly awaiting commercial release since its 2009 completion and has already been screened at a few film festivals. The thrilling trio of central performances carry the film, allegedly inspired by the work of Douglas Sirk, well beyond its schematic, heavy-handed construction as a "problem picture". Mr. Rebelo has a sure hand with his actors that he lacks in the overly simplistic script, one that in different hands might have lapsed into television-grade melodrama.

     Suburban hairdresser Laura (a moving Maria João Luís), a widowed mother of two, takes in the misfit Carmo (Rita Martins), a runaway living in her second-hand car who hides a secret she won't share. While the older woman gains a new lease on life from accompanying Carmo on long nights out where she meets Rui (Nuno Lopes), a fisherman with a broken heart, the young girl gets the sense of home and family her own stubbornness often stops her from seeing. After an intriguing first act, the film slowly loses steam and becomes more conventional, as the apparent need to turn it into a drama with a message about a serious subject overwhelms the fragile plot. Thankfully, Ms. Luís, Ms. Martins and Mr. Lopes's outstanding turns help Efeitos Secundários stand up on its own two feet, more than making up for the film's narrative shortcomings and giving humanity and depth to stock characters the script signposts clumsily.

Maria João Luís, Rita Martins, Nuno Lopes, Nuno Gil.
     Director/writer, Paulo Rebelo; cinematography, Inês Carvalho (colour, processing by Tobis); music, Os Tornados; art director, João Rui Guerra da Mata; wardrobe, Tânia Franco; editor, Cláudia Bravo; producers, Christine Reeh, Isabel Machado, Joana Ferreira (CRIM Produções in co-production with Cinemate), Portugal, 2009, 97 minutes. (Portuguese distributor and world sales, CRIM Produções.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Teatro do Bairro (Lisbon), November 28th 2011.


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