Saturday, December 07, 2019

Veredas: Homing

Brazil is the home of churrasco steak houses, so it stands to reason any country that eats that much carne must have cowboys. You can find many of them in Minas Gerais (where they also make delicious cheese). Marcelo is a cowboy, who has always rode-herd over his boss’s cattle. Life will bring him to a crossroads in Helvecio Marins Jr.’s Homing, which screens during the film series, Veredas: A Generation of Brazilian Filmmakers.

Marins has always lived in rural Minas Gerais and he has no intention of giving up the cowboy life-style. He is just too attuned to the land and the animals, unlike his little sister, who moved to the big city. However, he has a dream of being a rodeo announcer (apparently, they are a lot like rappers in Brazil, maintaining a steady patter of rhymes laced with ribald braggadocio). It would seem like an odd ambition for the shy cowhand, but performing in front of his peers could help bring Marcelo out of his shell. Unfortunately, his plans will be threatened by crisis that strikes out of the blue.

Homing is a quiet, meditatively observant film that shares a kinship with documentaries like Sweetgrass. Marcelo Di Souza (who plays his namesake, like the rest of the neophyte ensemble) is clearly deeply familiar with this world. Nobody had to train him to ride a horse. Yet, it is still presumably fiction, given third act events, including the most artistically rendered, least action-oriented cattle rustling scene probably ever seen on-screen.

This is a film just about everyone will have respect and warm feelings for, even though it will probably lull half the audience to sleep. The love Marcelo and his sister share for each other is quite endearing and the profound Catholic faith of the rodeo cowboys is also quite poignant, but the simple truth is not a lot happens during its modest 85-minute running time.

Still, we root Marcelo, his friends, and their way of life. Homing also bears many similarities to Chloe Zhao’s The Rider, but it is less depressing (and less dramatic and narratively driven). In both films, we are immersed in a vanishing way of life and the characters’ hardscrabble living conditions. At least Marins opens the door for a little hope.

Regardless, Homing is an evocative film that will make anyone who has visited Brazil hungry for the cheese. Just adjust your expectations and don’t come in hoping to see gun fights and horse chases. Recommended for patrons of slow cinema, Homing screens tomorrow (12/8), as part of Veredas.