Linha de Passe

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Directors: Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas; Release date: out now

The opening shots of Linha de Passe capture eloquently the sense of movement at the heart of this beautifully filmed and thought-provoking portrayal of Brazilian society: an exuberant crowd chanting at a football match, a young motorcycle courier speeding through traffic, a fervent congregation of swaying evangelical Christians and a young boy riding a bus.

This is the second instalment of a long term project to chart the changes within Brazil at 12-year intervals by directors Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas. The film uses the visually stunning backdrop of the country's largest city, Sao Paulo, to explore the attempts by a fatherless family of four young males to find their way in life. Linha de Passe is also a film about youth within a chaotic urban environment, during a state of emergency where unemployment, crime and violence are all on the increase.

But the focus of the action is the internal conflicts faced by the four brothers - Denis, Dario, Dinho and Reginaldo - as they struggle to make sense of their lives through a variety of means. Denis wants money, Dario is desperate to succeed as a footballer and Dinho turns to religion for answers. Reginaldo, the youngest son who is black, is obsessed with finding his father in the hope that this will provide a sense of identity. Clueza, their mother who is pregnant with a fifth child, tries to hold the family structure together as best she can.

Events in the outside world are not ignored, though. We see buses set alight and news reports of graduates queuing for jobs as garbage collectors because, as one of Denis's fellow couriers says, "You can either drive a bus or collect garbage in the city, or you can return to the countryside and cut sugar cane." Much of the film is about work: the search to find it, the tedium of being a petrol station attendant, the camaraderie of bus workers enjoying a moment's break at the depot or the dangers faced by couriers on the road. But there are also moments of fun as the family celebrates Dario's 18th birthday.

The contradictions of a polarised society are depicted skilfully. His small celebration is contrasted to the fast cars and drugs enjoyed by the middle class son and friends of the woman Cleuza cleans for, or there is the disparity in wealth between the imposing skyscrapers of downtown Sao Paulo and the desolate rain-soaked favelas (poor housing estates) on the outskirts of town.