Nina Neul’s award-winning debut film, “My Friend from Faro” is a typical girl meets boy story. Well, sort of. If you take the general idea and throw in an age gap, casual identity theft and a colossal misunderstanding, you’re probably a lot nearer to the mark.
The protagonist of the story, Melanie, is a boyish 20-something with a dead-end job, and a dysfunctional family life. We join her as she leans that her brother no longer intends to move away with her, since the trip was planned before his girlfriend became pregnant. Devastated, Mel goes for a night-time drive, and ends up hitting 14 year old Jenny, who is hitchhiking with her friend to a club.
There’s an instant spark between them, and when Jenny assumes that Mel is a boy, she isn’t corrected: Mel happily adopts the persona of “Miguel” a Portuguese 18 year old boy when she sees Jenny’s reaction to “him”. The two begin a precarious relationship with more than its fair share of complications, whether it is Mel’s hidden gender, the nine year age difference, Jenny’s boyfriend, or the appearance of the actual Portuguese man who inspired Mel’s alter-ego.
Without giving too much away, it is obvious that this romance can’t last. We know from previous Hollywood experience that any issues or secrets within a relationship will eventually be discovered, and it’s just a matter of waiting for the inevitable climactic reveal.
The cinematography of the film is brilliant; the camerawork is natural and understated, and the lack of over-editing creates a realistic tone throughout. There are layers of images and innuendos throughout the film: the use of cigarettes in particular is an overtly phallic symbol to watch out for, as is the somewhat comedic refusal of sausages by the vegetarian Mel.
Despite the obvious issues with the relationship, we can’t help rooting for them: the lovers are skilfully portrayed, and considering Lucie Hollmann (Jenny) was 13 during filming, there is a surprising amount of maturity in the performance. Blonde, blue eyed Anjorka Strechel’s transformation into dark haired, brown eyed Mel is equally impressive.
In short, the film is a story about an unusual couple, and is a success due, in part, to their sensitive acting. It provides an interesting insight into the fluidity of sexuality, and is definitely worth a watch.
DVD Release Date: 16 May 2011 Running Time: 93 mins