Journeys are always liberating experiences that force you into contemplating your strength and accepting your weakness. Central Station/Central do Brasil (1998) is a road movie that follows an older woman and a young boy across the Brazilian landscape in an impressive journey about the unexpected chances that life throws at you, to better yourself and discover love.
It is the story of Dora (Fernanda Montenegro), a former school teacher who has a stand in the central station of Rio de Janeiro where she writes letters for money in the name of the poor and illiterate. She takes the letters home where she and her friend, Irene, decide the fate of the unfortunate beings by throwing away most of them. Bitter and selfish, the woman is stuck with the little boy Josué (Vinícius de Oliveira) when his mother is hit by a truck and dies outside the station. At first, she tries to get rid of the boy by selling him to an adopting family; however she cannot enjoy her new TV as her friend tells her that the nice family is buying little orphan boys for their organs. Remorseful, she steals the boy away and they embark on a bus journey throughout Brazil to find the boy's father.
And that is all you'll get from me as far as the story goes. And I know what you're thinking: another sentimental movie about a kid that melts your heart. And you are right to assume that hearts will be softened and tears will be brought to your eyes. Josué (Vinícius de Oliveira) never complains or whines, he is so serious and adultlike, yet his big black eyes get to you. He is a vulnerable little boy who keeps his chin up even when tears roll down his cheeks. He acts all grown-up when he makes comments about Dora's clothes or engages himself in sex talks. As an informative note, director Walter Salles found Vinícius de Oliveira working as a shoeshine boy and he beat 1,500 other boys who were considered for the role. He acts naturally and manages his performance with courage and responsibility, making a sensitive, articulate role.
Also, emotions are triggered by Fernanda Montenegro's performance. Cynical and insecure, unhappy and calculated, Dora does her best to resist Josué' s charm, innocence and need for affection by pushing him, discarding him or tricking him. The boy's perseverance wins her over and Dora grows a heart. Rivalling actresses such as Jeanne Moreau and Giulietta Masina, Fernanda Montenegro turns her initial numbness into a touching sense of purpose. The journey they take saves them both: the boys find a family and she is given a second chance to discover love and friendship. Brazil's incredible landscape and the lovely people they encounter on the road are revealed through their eyes, in a sensitive accounting of the genuine living. It is a land full of life that reflects the fickle world they live in. The director's past experience with documentaries is evident in the realistic manner in which their journey is shot: people are poor, desperate, isolated, yet they are alive.
Again, a movie about a railway station where people collide with each other in their desperate rush, ignoring one another or simply failing to see each other. There is nothing promising in their sense of loss and lack of solidarity, yet two spirits are forcibly connected and true feelings shape in the form of a great friendship: a professional scribe unblocks her heart in writing and a lost child is given hope and a future.