Love is a feeling like no other. It’s an intense radiance that takes over every pour of your soul. In the City of Love Trilogy, we have been witness to a myriad of different ways this love can be experienced by individuals in Paris and New York. The latest chapter, Rio, I Love You, is no exception. Using the picturesque landscape of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the filmmakers craft 10 distinctive stories that reiterate how lovely love can be.
If you are not familiar with the beauty and lavish size of Rio, the opening credits sprawl of the landscape is eyeopening. Most of us are aware of the cultural aspect of Rio, most commonly Carnival, but this film shows much more of the emotional center of the film. This story is not about the city itself, which is breath taking, but instead thrives off of the vigor that spreads out from the city center. The exploration of the massive domain of Rio through the multiple love stories is the perfect way to allow the audience to find their own niche and home in this metropolis.
One of the most endearing elements about the City of Love trilogy is the way each of the 10 directors showcase love. Each story segment is not only different in visuals and tone, but the category of love evolves as well. Love has been expressed through visual beauty of an object, romantic passion between two people, love in a higher power (faith), or lost love to name a few.
The directors in this chapter (Guillermo Arriaga, Stephan Elliott, Sang-soo Im, Nadine Labaki, Fernando Meirelles, Jose Padilha, Carlos Saldanha, Paolo Sorrentino, John Turturro, and Andrucha Waddington) hold nothing back in bringing emotions to the surface of their respected segment. For the most part these stories stand on their own, allowing for the full narrative to develop and conclude in a short film format. The connective tissue is Rio, and that is all that is needed.
It might be hard for some to grasp the concept of a film about short films, but this is what I love most about it. The short films allow the emotion to fully breath and develop within the audience. This allows for the individual to have a singular experience with the segment, one that could make lasting impressions in their psyche.
There are a few moments, however, that a character or a story element weaves in and out of other stories. It’s not too distracting, but can take the focus away from the particular story being told at that moment. Nothing substantial is given away, though, and at times is even nice to have a familiar face greet you with a smile as you travel through the landscape of love. In the end, the nice circular trajectory of some of the characters is a nice warm hug.
The two segments that stick out most that had a lasting affect of emotional fulfillment was Arriaga’s “Texas” and Saldanha's “Pas de Deux.” In “Texas,” a couple is faced with daily struggles sustained through a tragic accident. When an American offers a ‘miracle’ solution, the questions of loyalty and love are addressed. Little dialogue is devoted to the power of the situation, and instead focuses on the visuals to tell the story. The one character who does lay everything out on the table is Gringo, played by Jason Isaacs. The range of emotions that he conveys through his straightforward lines is magnificent. Isaacs is a phenomenal actor, and he doesn’t disappoint in this small role.
In “Pas de Deux,” ballet dancers Ele (Rodrigo Santoro) and Ela (Bruna Linzmeyer) struggle between devotion to self and devotion of career. Equal attention must also be paid to their dance doubles, Diogo de Lima and Cassi Abranches (respectfully) who made the role of double seamless. These dancers mimicked the passion that Santoro and Linzmeyer, allowing the audience to lose themselves in the story and not drawing attention to the fact that doubles were used. Santoro is well known in American cinema, playing different roles in major productions for years, but it was seeing him act in his native tongue that surpassed all previous expectations. There is something to be said about acting in your comfort zone, and Santoro is mesmerizing when he was able to focus on character and emotion and not on the dialect.
Whether the stories in Rio, I Love You were staggered as a connective tissue throughout the rest of the stories or showed as a short film within a feature, the beauty of this series is palpable. Love is universal, love is all around us, and love can be found in the most unusual of ways.
Rio I Love You is in limited theaters around the country and online via Screen Media Films.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Prodigy PR