Starring: Willem Dafoe, Maira Fernanda Cândido, Reynaldo Gianecchini
Director: Hector Babenco
Running Time: 124 mins
My Hindu Friend is a Brazilian film about an ailing film director close to death, whose closest acquaintances are struggling to cope with his tempestuous moods. But if he survives his illness, he must learn to come to terms with reality once again.
Combining elegant style and clearly very personal emotion throughout, director Hector Babenco’s My Hindu Friend is without a doubt a powerfully intimate portrait of living close to death, taking on challenging themes throughout. And while it certainly offers up engrossing drama through a captivating lead performance, the film unfortunately misses the mark with its most transcendent and thought-provoking ideas.
My Hindu Friend is, as a result, unfortunately not the most emotionally affecting film you’ll come across, with the intensely personal depth suffocating underneath a frustrating and often unconvincing screenplay.
However, that doesn’t mean the film is an entirely dull watch, and although it doesn’t quite pack the punch it’s aiming for, My Hindu Friend still impresses with a bold style, unique ideas and a very strong lead performance from Willem Dafoe.
The film is an elegant watch throughout, with patient pacing and soothing visuals that bring home themes of mortality in a striking manner, as the film director approaches death without remedy, almost entirely opening up to it no matter how much he may struggle and resist deep down.
In that, My Hindu Friend isn’t a devastating, soul-destroying watch, and while it sees a man go through hell as he undergoes intense medical treatment and psychological turmoil, director Babenco’s style is what gives it that uniquely elegant and soothing touch.
Willem Dafoe’s performance also plays in neatly to that atmosphere, with a mellow and restrained performance that powerfully shows a man beginning to realise that his time may be up. His screen presence and energy at times still shows the character’s fire within, but as his condition deteriorates, Dafoe’s performance – shying away from all melodrama – works excellently in tandem with the film’s core perspective on death.
As the film details what is clearly a very personal story for director Babenco, he introduces striking and unique ideas that could only possibly come from his own experiences. From emotional struggles with those around him to a unique perspective on the afterlife, My Hindu Friend features some surprising and briefly thought-provoking moments that divert from the course of more typical meditations on the subject.
However, this is where the film unfortunately begins to fall down, as those unique ideas are never delivered in either convincing or captivating enough fashion to really hit home. The perspective on the afterlife is a clear example, and despite evidently being inspired by real, personal experience, it unfortunately feels random and out of place in the context of the film as a whole.
Couple that with a view on complex themes that, despite featuring elegant intimacy, can be a little superficial, and you have a film that really misses the mark when it comes to hitting home on its most thought-provoking themes, an issue made unfortunately more frustrating by its long and slow pacing that does little to rectify that lack of intrigue with transcendent emotion.
Overall, My Hindu Friend is clearly a very personal film for director Hector Babenco, and with a unique sense, an elegant style and a fantastic lead performance, there are times when it delivers his core ideas perfectly. Unfortunately, that’s all shadowed by a screenplay that comes often comes off as unconvincing, superficial and even haphazard, missing the mark in providing thought-provoking and agonising emotional drama, so that’s why I’m giving the film a 6.8.