Central Station is destined to be the feel good film of the year and giving it less than a 110% review seems a tad curmudgeonly. Yet, while CV is more positive than not about it, Central Station left us unsatisfied.
The story is of a young boy who finds sympathy in a cynical older woman when he is stranded in Rio after the accidental death of his mother. After some unnecessarily overextended detailing of plot development, they head for Brazil’s interior together in search of the boy’s father. Over the course of their trip, each, initially defensive and self protective, grows to care for the other, and our heroine finds again feelings that she had either repressed or simply numbed out.
Mind you, there were more than a few tears and sniffles at the viewing today, so clearly the film had emotional resonance for some in the audience. What CV liked were the performances by Fernanda Montenegro, a fine actress with a lived-in face, and the boy, young Vincius de Oliveria, who is fresh, natural, convincing and simpatico.
We liked, too, those scenes where we got a sense of the teeming and poverty ridden life of Brazil’s exponentially growing population. Under such circumstances life may be cheap, as is shown here, but it is, nonetheless, real life to individual people with hopes and feelings and problems and occasional joy. Montenegro’s character writes letters for a fee for illiterate people; as they dictate their messages to her, we learn bits and pieces of the texture of their lives.
But the lovely performances don’t compensate sufficiently for the lack of irony. Little goes on under the surface here and in the end it seems more sentimental than insightful.
.. - Arthur Lazere
in Modern Brazilian Cinema (1997), Ismail Xavier
Race in Brazilian Cinema and Culture
(1997), Robert Stam