Sócrates opens with a death, or rather a specific moment after that death. An abrupt cut shows us, in closeup, a woman laid on her back, eyes closed, with someone else’s hand touching her forehead and calling, with increasing panic, “Mãe?” This hand belongs to Sócrates (Christian Malheiros), the woman’s teenage son who is soon to land destitute on the streets of São Paulo.

This brief opening ends as abruptly as it begins, in a clever representation of the moment’s total rupture. But it’s soon time to move on. Sócrates initially continues his mother’s cleaning work, pretending that she’s merely sick and just needs covering; this soon collapses, at least in part because the boy is underage. The state tries to help—there is a father somewhere, but it is clear Sócrates doesn’t want that line pursued. His landlady allows him to stay for a while, but she can’t maintain this if he can’t make rent. We see no context for the supporting cast’s own straitened circumstances; the filmmakers know that this is sheer fact of life.

Alexandre Moratto directs and co-writes, creating a brief but well-formed film that follows the social realist playbook to the letter. (Ramin Bahrani is listed as a producer.) The visual style is often expressively cramped, and the Baixada Santista area is shot with little romance though some affection.

Extra poignance arrives with Sócrates’ one-time co-worker Maicon (Tales Ordakji), and an ensuing romance; this is told with great rhythm (and some delicate sound recording), its downbeat developments skilfully underscoring this Unicef-supported local crew’s dedication to presenting the surrounding life on the poverty line.

The film rarely ventures outside of the largely expected—although the ending forces a potent rethink of what Sócrates’ journey really means. This surprising through-line works, though; carried, along with so many things, by Malheiros’ moving debut performance.



CAST: Christian Malheiros, Tales Ordakji, Jayme Rodrigues, Vanessa Santana, Rosane Paulo, Caio Martinez Pacheco, Andrielly De Melo Chaves

DIRECTOR: Alexandre Moratto

WRITERS: Thayná Mantesso, Alexandre Moratto

SYNOPSIS: After his mother’s sudden death, Sócrates, a 15-year-old living on the margins of São Paulo’s coast, must survive on his own while coming to terms with his grief.

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