Director Fernando Coimbra’s promising feature-film début “O Lobo atrás da Porta” [Eng. Title: Wolf at the Door] starts as a suspense-thriller but pretty quickly veers off into a drama. Set against the backdrop of down-town Rio de Janeiro, the suspense associated with the kidnapping of a child is relatively short-lived, the film thereafter delves into the motive behind the kidnapper’s actions.
Sylvia (Fabiula Nascimento) arrives to pick her child from the nursery as usual, but the surprised staff member reminds her that it was she who called earlier to allow her friend Sheila to collect the kid, since she was unwell and wont be able to make it.
When the police interview staff members, it becomes clear that whoever impersonated Sylvia’s friend was well known to the child, because she instinctively ran towards her for a hug. But Sylvia doesn’t even have a friend named Sheila, and husband Bernardo (Milhem Cortaz) is brought in for questioning. As soon as he learns of his daughter’s kidnapping, he blames it on Rosa (Leandra Leal), the woman he’d been having an affair with over the past year.
As the detective questions Rosa, she initially denies any involvement in the kidnapping and comes up with a different version of events on that day. When grilled further, she admits that it was she who kidnapped the child, and opens her back story and her affair with Bernardo. It touches on how they met, and how she was misled into believing that he was not married. She also mentions his physical abuse for befriending Sylvia, how she had an abortion forced upon her, and Bernardo’s general unpleasantness…
The drama is a pretty good first effort by Coimbra – one can see stylistic influences from the likes of Bruno Dumont and Carlos Reygadas from his long, almost static camera takes, and frequent use of close-ups. It is just as well that he had the right actors to help, particularly Leandra Leal who handles the sharp contradictions within her film-character with aplomb – at one moment she’s the vulnerable, suffering, and innocent girl, and in the next she’s a doggedly determined woman with a strong appetite for sex. The camera work is good, but I couldn’t help feeling that the grungy-industrial soundtrack might have been overdone a bit. My main problem with the film however, is its unmistakeable moral overtones. The ‘wolf’ in the title refers to disruption in a family’s harmony – as in this case, by the extramarital affair – the clear message being that infidelity is wrong, and abortion is cruel. Having said that, Coimbra does exceptionally well in holding the viewer’s curiosity for the most part of proceedings, and also manages to insert an unexpected twist in the plot towards the end – a promising début that’s Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Leandra Leal
There are two instances of brief nudity from Leandra Leal playing Rosa, the second of which is a bit longer. There is also a brief backside flash from Fabiula Nascimento who plays Sylvia, while getting out of bed.