In 1995 Brazilian director Andrucha Waddington was so struck by a TV special about a woman who had lived for 10 years with three husbands that she was inspired to make a film. Her idea wasn't to dramatize the lives of the actual people but rather explore the nature of the arrangement. In the harsh rural area of the Brazilian northeast where "Me You Them" is set, Waddington has said that it's not uncommon for a man to support several women, but that the opposite, in such a macho atmosphere, is virtually unheard of.
If any woman could be believable in such a setting it's Regina Case's Darlene, a strapping peasant woman, a sturdy earth mother. Pregnant and stood up at the altar, Darlene heads for the city, returning sometime later with a little boy in hand and again pregnant by yet another fleeting lover. She had intended only a visit but accepts the marriage proposal of the seventysomething Osias (Lima Duarte), who offers her the security of his adobe house and his property; in a desperately impoverished area, Osias seems clearly better off than his neighbors.
Osias swiftly takes to his hammock, while Darlene tills the fields and runs the household uncomplainingly. Her serenity and her frank and easy sensuality soon attract Zezinho (Ste^nio Garcia), Osias' cousin and his contemporary. Osias seems to have little or no romantic interest in Darlene, who is soon pregnant by Zezinho, who moves in with the couple. All is harmonious until Osias gives shelter to the much younger Ciro (Luis Carlos Vasconcelos), an itinerant agricultural worker.
Until this point Waddington and her writer Elena Soarez have taken such an ultra low-key minimalist approach to the material that "Me You Them" is of not much interest. (It is about as opposite in tone from the classic "Don~a Flor and Her Two Husbands" as possible.) You admire their resistance to the lusty peasant cliches and coarse double-entendre but in their place they don't provide much to involve us until the newcomer reveals to the older men what a sustaining force Darlene is by her sheer presence. But how will Ciro fit in?
"Me You Them" is an adroit, beautifully acted, sophisticated film with some drier-than-dust humor about unsophisticated people and is impressive as such. It's too bad that it's not more engaging much earlier on.
* MPAA-rated: PG-13, for sexuality and thematic content. Times guidelines: The sexuality is minimal but the film's themes are highly adult.
'Me You Them'
Regina Case: Darlene
Lima Duarte: Osias
Ste^ nio Garcia: Zezinho
Dana Chaifetz: Amy
A Sony Pictures Classics and Conspiracio Filmes presentation. Director Andrucha Waddington. Producers Leonardo M. Barros, Pedro B. de Hollanda, Waddington and Favio R. Tembelinni. Screenplay by Elena Soarez. Cinematographer Bruno Silveira. Editor Vicente Kubrusky. Music Gilberto Gil. Costumes Claudia Kopke. Production designer Toni Vanzolini. In Portuguese, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.
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