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By Kate Smith
14th June 2014

The opening title shot of ‘Casa Grande’ is a bit of a wow moment: a grand house, with pool, spa, three storeys and many lights. But is it just another “coming of age” film, or something special?

The story revolves around Jean (Thales Cavalcanti), a 17-year-old from a wealthy family in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a universal story about the commonality of teenagers, no matter where in the world you may be. There’s the horny teenage boy, the bratty 14-year-old sister who no one listens to, and the parents dealing with their own problems. All this is set against the particular circumstances of living in Brazil - the danger, the kidnap hoaxes and the favelas.

The film discusses issues of race and socioeconomic status, though these are backdrops to the family drama surrounding Jean. He seems to be a typical teenage boy from a well-to-do family at a good school; he wants to get laid. Most nights he sneaks into the housekeeper’s rooms, but she rejects his advances. His driver takes him to a brothel to lose his virginity, but Jean wants to win over a girl as a matter of honour. He’s also coming up on his university entrance exams, and is at the point in life where he has to decide his future. Meanwhile, his parents are trying to keep their financial woes from their children, and are considering selling their casa grande.


The editing is really rather good. There are no overly long, or short, or wasted scenes. Natural light is preferred, with the concept of "lights" reminding us of the family’s need to save money. The music is incidental, coming from the record player or the radio, and adding to the cultural atmosphere.

The performance from the younger actors is great, right up until high emotion is called for, when things get a bit forced. There’s lots of effective tension, particularly between Jean and his father (Marcello Novaes). The teenage love story is very sweet, and sad. Bruna Amaya’s performance as Jean’s love interest, Luiza, is excellent.

The only complaints I have is that the film just ends very abruptly, leaving the conclusion up to our imaginations, and that the division between the wealthy and those in the favelas could have warranted more exploration. All in all, it’s a brilliant first effort for director Fellipe Barbosa.

RUN TIME: 1h 55m
CAST: Marcello Novaes
Suzana Pires
Thales Cavalcanti
DIRECTOR: Fellipe Barbosa
WRITERS: Fellipe Barbosa
Karen Sztajnberg
PRODUCER: Iafa Britz
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