Central Station

1998, Movie, R, 115 mins


An utterly charming road trip across the Brazilian countryside, without a hint of the cloying sentimentality one might expect. Retired teacher Dora (Fernanda Montenegro) is a crusty, emotionally dead 67-year-old who ekes out a living writing and (sometimes) posting letters for illiterate customers in Rio de Janeiro's Central Station. One afternoon, a young mother asks Dora to write a letter to the wayward father of her 9-year-old son Josué (Vinicius de Oliveira). Immediately after, she's struck down and killed by a bus. In a rare moment of kindness, Dora takes the child under her wing, saving him from the dangerous life of Rio's homeless street kids, and promises to return him to the father who now lives in a remote village in northeast Brazil. With nothing but a name and address to go on, Dora and Josué embark on a journey that takes them far from the emotionally barren routine of Dora's life in Rio, and closer to the promise of a spiritual reawakening. Brazilian director Walter Salles has fashioned a rare kind of film: a heart-tugger that honestly earns your tears. At the outset, Dora is hardly an attractive figure -- she's a bitter alcoholic who's willing to sell Josué for $1000 -- but her gradual transformation is a joy to watch, and Montenegro gives a brilliant performance as a woman who, nearing the end of her life, suddenly finds herself longing for everything she's missed. Filled with moments of real poignancy and gentle epiphanies, the film is also marked by strong Christian undercurrents, but, like everything else in Salles's film, they're handled with extraordinary delicacy and never feel exclusionary. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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