Combining absurdist horror with social realism, Good Manners takes the werewolf fable and deconstructs it within the context of modern Brazilian society, taking into account factors of race and class that help alleviate some narrative problems in the second half. The first (much better) section concerns poor housemaid Clara (Isabél Zuaa) as she helps rich housewife Anna (Marjorie Estiano) get ready for the birth of Anna’s first child. Clara begins to notice some peculiar things about Anna, such as her craving for meat, which at one point results in her eating a live cat. (A deadpan smash-cut transitions to Anna doing yoga the next day.)
It’s in this part of the film that the horror elements of Good Manners actually become relatively muted, as directors Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra focus on the relationship between these two women, highlighting the outsider quality of Clara (dark-skinned and poor, she is, for instance, flagged immediately by security at a shopping center) and the monstrous appetite of the wealthy Anna. Unfortunately, the film gearshifts once the monster baby is born and embraces some conventions of the horror genre that betray the more methodical build-up of its central relationship. It’s a shame that Rojas and Dultra take this path in part because the tyranny of the upper class is far more terrifying than any CGI-laden creature they can conjure up.
Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2018 | Dispatch 2.