A Wolf at the Door a Gripping Neo-Noir

Leandra LealEXPAND
Leandra Leal

In A Wolf at the Door, Brazilian writer-director Fernando Coimbra turns a Lifetime Movie–worthy story of a doomed love triangle into a gripping neo-noir by empathizing equally with his three love-addled protagonists. Coimbra doesn't go out of his way to sensationalize the events that lead naive Rosa (Leandra Leal) to have an affair with, stalk, and then abduct the daughter of Bernardo (Milhem Cortaz), a married Rio bus driver. Instead, after her kidnapping plot is discovered in an early scene, Rosa is allowed to tell her story through a series of flashbacks. Thankfully, Coimbra doesn't let her unhinged perspective dominate the film. He's sensitive enough to develop fully Rosa and Bernardo's illicit courtship, from kittenish pouting to rabid-dog-in-heat snarling. Coimbra also doesn't neglect Bernardo's unsuspecting wife, Sylvia (Fabiula Nascimento), a canny, earthy heroine who in one characteristic scene enjoys a cigarette in bed and blithely blows smoke into her husband's eyes. A Wolf at the Door's protagonists are so winningly complex that the film's episodic narrative never feels choppy, not even as each new confrontation between Rosa and Bernardo proves more nerve-shredding than the last. Coimbra keeps his cool when his characters can't, and that makes all the difference in a film that starts at 11 and ends up at 20.

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