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CENTRAL STATION (AKA Central do Brasil) 1998
A film by Walter Salles
Written by: Marcos Bernstein & João Emanuel Carneiro
Fernanda Montenegro.... Dora
Marília Pêra.... Irene
Vinícius de Oliveira.... Josué
Soia Lira.... Ana
Othon Bastos.... Cesar
Otávio Augusto.... Pedrão
Stela Freitas.... Yolanda
Matheus Nachtergaele.... Isaías
Caio Junqueira.... Moisés

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My task is to alert visitors to the Outside:S&DF site to good books and movies, and/or bad ones. Although ODSF is primarily devoted to science fiction, you'll find fantasy in these virtual pages as well as noir John and Brian haven't restricted themselves when it comes to presenting quality material they think will be of interest to visitors. We're all on the same page as far as that is concerned.

Given all that, you've probably managed to guess that the film in question, CENTRAL STATION, isn't SF. It isn't, but it is damn good and deserves your time.

Rosa (Fernanda Montenegro), a retired schoolteacher, works as a letter writer for the many illiterate people passing through Rio's Central Station each day on their ways through their various lives. What these trusting souls don't know is that she reads through the missives each day after work, ripping most up but stashing a few for possible later mailing—if the whim moves her. In other words, she's a thief and a cheat.

One day a woman stops by to have a letter written to her absent husband. She is sending their son Josué (Vinícius de Oliveira) to visit him. Shortly afterwards she is accidentally killed, orphaning the boy. He spends a few homeless days in the station before Dora 'befriends" him. But Dora has a particularly selfish and devious purpose in mind.

It would be a disservice to reveal much more about the plot of this sweet, moving film, other than to say that our letterwriter, initially a despicable little woman, gradually becomes something quite else as the movie progresses.

We're allowed many glimpses into the small lives of people in an entirely different culture. It's not unlike SF in that respect. (I particularly enjoyed Othon Bastos's turn as Cesar, a devout truck driver.) The thing about this movie is that it creeps up on you. Just when you think it's over, it takes a little twist and more vistas open up. The unlikely friendship between Dora and Josué as they journey to find the boy's father make for one of the most compelling movie experiences I've had in some time. Days later my wife and I were still remarking about the performances and how moved we were.

Having seen Shakespeare in Love not long before, we were still somewhat under the spell of that splashy, exuberant movie, so rightly praised by the critics. But CENTRAL STATION is just as good if not better, making its points quite as effectively with a great deal less fuss. The performances were uniformly excellent, particularly those of Fernanda Montenegro, who is extraordinary, and Vinícius de Oliveira, who is probably the least affected child actor you'll find. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL probably deserved to win its Academy Award, but CENTRAL STATION is no less deserving, I can promise you that, and much less contrived.

Tell you what if you don't believe me about this movie, go read the comments people have been leaving on the amazon.com site. There is not one negative comment about CENTRAL STATION. And that, my friends, is rare.

This film is in Portuguese, subtitled in English. But please don't let that stop you you'll have plenty of time to watch the actors' faces, and that is where your attention should be.

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