It's no small feat to pull off a debut feature with a self-financed genre film outside the usual European system of subsidised or pre-sales financing. But for all the can-do spirit that Leonardo António expended on O Frágil Som do Meu Motor, coupled with a self-evident technical savoir-faire, this handsome yet hopelessly muddled debut trips hard on the same obstacle most attempts at Portuguese mainstream filmmaking trip over: pure and simple story telling and scripting. Instead, we get a disconnected, episodic structure with little to no sense of plausibility or believability, cramming together a series of stock American TV crime drama clichés and everything-is-connected soap opera construction into a Portuguese setting, disregarding any feel of sense. Worse, Mr. António, who also scripts, throws into the mix developments and concepts that add nothing but confusion.

     Central to the film's misjudgment of tone and failure of plot is the opening and closing voiceover spoken by a yet unborn baby inside the mother's womb, a misleading idea that is completely unrelated to anything else in the story and resurfaces at irregular intervals to bewildering effect. It could have been acceptable if there had be a straight-forward, easy-to-follow story. Instead, though, we get a series of surprisingly pointless sidetracks from a central thread, of an investigation into the crimes of a serial killer who murders pregnant women. The heroine, hospital nurse Gabriela (Alexandra Rocha), works in the burn ward where the latest victim is battling for her life, but she is also friends with Vítor, the detective in charge of the case (João Villas-Boas), who also happens to be the best friend of her husband (Gustavo Vargas), a former detective paralysed in a shootout. Gabriela starts investigating the case on her own, while beginning to receive mysterious packages from a man who sets her dates in a derelict building, leading to blindfolded SM sex where she never sees his face - and we haven't even gotten to the twist ending nobody saw coming.

     When a story fails so completely to hang together, the best efforts of the actors and the generally adequate if low-budget technical credits unable to rescue the film from train-wreck status, you know that you're in for a painful experience. The failure of O Frágil Som do Meu Motor is compounded by a total absence of rhythm at an overbearing two hours plus, suggesting that Mr. António's can-do spirit lacked the necessary supervision that would harness it and guide it to clarity. The result is disheartening.

Cast: Alexandra Rocha, João Villas-Boas, Gustavo Vargas, Rui Luís Brás
Director and writer: Leonardo António
Cinematography: Pedro Sousa, José Tiago  (colour)
Music: Rodrigo Leão
Art director: João Cavaleiro
Costumes: Mélanie Guedes Marques
Editor: Ana Costa
Producer: Pedro Mendonça (Recycled Films)
Portugal, 2012, 130 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Alvaláxia 5, Lisbon, April 16th 2013

O Frágil Som Do Meu Motor Trailer from Recycled Films on Vimeo.


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