Marlombrando grew up living with his mother, after their parents had separated. He has not seen his father Almeida in years and they are barely on speaking terms. Almeida owns and operates Brazil’s last drive-in cinema – a run-down, manky little affair with a workforce of two. When his mother suddenly becomes very ill, Marlombrando unwillingly turns to his father for help.
Apart from the mother’s health crisis, the film mainly chronicles the difficult attempts of father and son to reapproach each other and to achieve some kind of reconciliation. And it does all this before the background of the drive-in cinema.
As his son’s name suggests, Almeida is a passionate lover of film, who refuses to go with the times and who stubbornly keeps operating his old drive-in cinema even though nobody goes there any more. The whole film is partly a family drama and partly a love-letter to cinema. And it is no coincidence that there is a Cinema Paradiso poster in one of the shots.
The premise and the writing are very good, but the film predominantly lives by its perfect location (Brazil’s last drive-in cinema) and by the very strong performances by each and every one of the actors.
Othon Bastos is outstanding as the patriarchal Almeida, and you could argue that Almeida, and not Marlombrando, is the central character of the film. Breno Nina’s performance as Marlombrando (in his feature film debut) is also very strong, as is the performance of Chico Sant’anna as Almeida’s odd-job man Zé. The female characters are also cast perfectly, with Rita Assemany (Marlombrando’s mother) and Fernanda Rocha (Almeida’s projectionist/snack-bar operator) playing their very different but equally demanding roles very well.
There are a number of light-hearted moments in this family drama, and on the whole the film has and a very enjoyable, subtle humour running through its veins.
This is a very strong feature film debut for director Iberê Carvalho, who also co-produced the film and wrote the screenplay (also his first at feature length), with one of the film’s composers, Zé Pedro Gollo, having received a co-writing credit.
As I said, this film is in parts a love letter to cinema, and if you enjoy these sort of films, you will definitely enjoy O Ultímo Cine Drive-in.
Rating: roughly 8 out of 10