Brazil is currently crafting some fascinating cinema; many of the country’s filmmakers seem unafraid to delve into unique and unconventional stories. Combining that with one of the country’s most intriguing actors in the new film ‘Liquid Truth’ seems like a promising possibility - but can its creative team overcome conventionality?
Rubens (Daniel de Oliveira, ‘Cazuza: Time Doesn't Stop’) is a swimming instructor at a local pool. He’s loved by his students and their parents - that is, until one day, when one mother (Stella Rabello) makes a complaint against him for allegedly kissing their eight-year-old son on the lips. Daniel denies the claim, but the boy’s mother takes the situation into her own hands and spreads the allegations online amongst other parents. Suddenly, Rubens feels the noose tighten around his neck as students pull out of his swim class, the pool is closed, and the police are involved.
This is a horrific examination of how allegations on social media can spiral out of control in devastating and irreparable ways. Short of gathering the villagers and taking up pitchforks, every effort is made to destroy Rubens’ career and integrity, without the smallest iota of evidence. By rallying the online troops, the allegations move from a calmly-handled investigation into a personal hell for Rubens, from being physically assaulted by irate parents to having “paedophile” spray painted across his car. The ruthless efficiency of the public trial gradually pushes Rubens over the limit.
The standout element of ‘Liquid Truth’ is undoubtedly Oliveira’s performance. He slips into this role effortlessly - his character is necessarily hands-on with his students, which lead you to increasingly question his actions as the story progresses. He also plays the role with a degree of arrogance and confidence, which is slowly worn down as the attacks on him progress. Watching this character have everything stripped from him is quite a brutal transformation.
This is a horrific examination of how allegations on social media can spiral out of control in devastating and irreparable ways.
However, what’s left of the film does largely fall into mediocrity. As so often happens with films set in and around public pools, the cinematography is typically flat; save for a few carefully controlled underwater shots, the aquatic elements in this film are relatively bland. Director Carolina Jabor (‘Good Luck’) and her DoP Azul Serra occasionally experiment with breaking the rule of thirds, and particularly towards the beginning of the film, there’s some unconventional but well-utilised framing. Still, so much of the film is chromatically dull and two-dimensional.
Similarly, Lucas Paraizo’s (‘Gabriel and the Mountain’) script feels a little flat at times - although there’s a general building of tension and stakes as the film progresses, there are times when we dwell on scenes or secondary characters for unnecessarily long. This problem also extends to the editing, often lingering longer than it should.
Despite the smooth surface, it’s fairly obvious that ‘Liquid Truth’ is furiously treading water. With an impressive performance from Daniel de Oliveira which rescues the film, it’s not enough to keep the rest of the clunky parts buoyant. Worth a watch for the dramatic elements, I’d recommend you BYO floatation devices.