Fantasy drama “Good Manners” (2017) mixes genres together into a refreshingly original, highly enjoyable blend. This Portuguese film, featured in Eckerd’s international cinema screening on Sept. 28, was impeccably made, thoroughly entertaining and contains more than a few unexpected twists.
Taking place in Sao Paulo, the film follows Clara (Isabel Zuaa), a down-on-her-luck woman stuck in a small apartment with a persistent landlady. One day, Clara goes to the home of Ana (Marjorie Estiano), a mother-to-be who soon hires Clara as her maid until the baby is born.
Clara soon becomes aware of Ana’s peculiar behavior, from sleepwalking to craving meat. One night, Ana tells Clara how she got pregnant, and we learn that she had sex with a werewolf. Ana’s werewolf baby is born, and Clara reluctantly decides to take care of it.
Fast-forward seven years later, Clara and Joel (Miguel Lobo) are living as normal a life as they can in her apartment. Clara desperately tries to keep Joel’s lycanthropy a secret by not feeding him meat, chaining him to a wall on full moon nights and shaving off his fur in post-transformation mornings. However, Joel wants to hang out with his friends from school and experience life as a child should, much to Clara’s disapproval.
Though “Good Manners” spends way too long setting up the eventual main plot and focusing on the relationship between Clara and Ana, it was surprisingly good. The first 35 or so minutes are dedicated to Clara helping Ana and providing some unnecessary backstory. Nothing much really happens, but there are sparse and sly hints to something much bigger to come.
Once we learn the truth about Ana and her baby, the film clicks into high gear as it effortlessly mushes genres together and provides an engrossing story for the rest of the runtime. Jumping between drama, horror flick, fantasy and even a musical at some points, the melting pot of cinematic qualities are what make this story of a strange family and their secrets entertaining.
Fans of horror cinema will appreciate the slow-burn reveal of Ana’s past, Joel’s birth scene and the superb special effects and transformation sequences clearly inspired by the classic “An American Werewolf in London” (1981).
Those who are fond of drama will enjoy the relationship between Clara and Joel and how high the stakes are if people find out what Joel really is. Mystery lovers will fancy the film’s eerie atmosphere and sudden revelations. A couple of well-placed songs sung by a few characters add in aspects for musical and theater fans and the general mix of genre the film eventually turns out to be will appeal to anyone, regardless of taste.
The film is not just a clever mishmash of different types of cinema, but also contains enough stellar elements to have it stand on its own as a fantastic movie.
Even with the long first act, the pacing is outstanding, deftly moving along at a perfectly-engaging rate that drew me, a seasoned action cinema buff, into its world and kept me there. The aforementioned special effects are especially wondrous, at points looking as realistic as possible (baby Joel in werewolf form looks scarily lifelike).
Additionally, “Good Manners” is possibly the first movie to feature a werewolf that is actually cute. Seriously, Joel’s final canine form is simply adorable, with his big, bright eyes, round nose and human-like face. A cute werewolf is not something you see in a typical lycan story, yet this movie pulls it off.
“Good Manners” is a whimsical, almost magical kind of movie that cannot help but be enjoyed. With enough genre elements to make five separate movies, an original and captivating story and a murderous monster that will make your heart melt, it’s a film that must be seen to be believed.