Jean Charles film (Henrique Goldman, 2009)

The poor depiction of a very touching story. Unfortunately Henrique Goldman’s Jean Charles is very disappointing: the script is unconvincing, the cinematography is ordinary, most performances are very poor and the narrative has many errors.

Selton Mello’s depiction of Jean Charles – who was mistaken for a terrorist and consequently murdered by Scotland Yard in London five years ago – is just average. Vanessa Giacomo provides one of the few refreshing aspects of the film: she is very touching as Jean Charles’ cousins, Vivian, conveying a solemn, subtle sadness and a true sense of alienation to her immigrant experience. Other characters are highly cliched: the camp gay friend, the greedy Asian restaurant owner, the imbecile immigration officer and the inarticulate country bumpkin.

Confusingly, the director states in the opening that the film is “inspired by a real story”, and yet he depicted the most important events of the Jean saga in London as close as possible to reality. This includes the moment Jean Charles is shot inside a train at Stockwell station. Various locations and character names throughout the film were also preserved. The result is a jumble of actual facts and clumsily fabricated and embroidered storylines – a cinematic zorse (a morbid crossing and zebra and horse).

Some scenes are unnecessary, unrealistic and grossly crafted and enacted, such as when Jean and his builder friends are rewarded for their hard work with a group of busty prostitutes and a sex party unravels, or when Vivian encounters an old acquaintance and is seemingly surprised by his effeminate looks and bulky black boyfriend.

There is a succession of glaring bloopers and blunders, far beyond the innocent continuity error. For example, Jean Charles’ cousin Vivian inexplicably masters English, and a large building job worth a whopping £80,000 is completed to perfection by Jean Charles and his friends in less than two weeks – the period between the London bombings and Jean Charles’ death.

Sidney Magal’s live performance – a Brazilian singer from the 1980s who has long fallen into near-obscurity – adds a rare spark of originality to the film. It celebrates tacky culture and offers a return to a primal, unpretentious root of Brazilian pop culture.

Goldman’s intentions in making a film about Jean Charles and reminding us of the impunity of his killers are praiseworthy. He was also well-positioned to do so, being a Brazilian immigrant in London. He worked hard to obtain funds from the UK Film Council as well as support from British legend Stephen Frears. But the film has not even obtained theatrical distribution in the UK.

The British film industry and British audiences are not to blame – I think that they would love to see a good film depicting the saga of the Brazilian electrician and the consequences of his untimely death. The problem is that Goldman’s film delivers neither an opinionated account of the events nor the touching story of an immigrant: it is simply a bad film.

By Victor Fraga

One Comment

  1. Riccardo

    Henrique, yo no vi el film, pero aunque fuera tan malo como dice Fraga, no creo que hubiera merecido tan cruel recensión. ¿No habrá algo de personal en esto?

    Greetings from Italy

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