Credit: Ronaldo Dimer Filmes de Plastico
by Michael Sicinski Featured Film

The Day I Met You — André Novais Oliveira [NF/ND ’24 Review]

April 11, 2024

The sophomore film from Brazilian director André Novais Oliveira is a charming cinematic miniature that observes the unfolding of an ordinary day that potentially evolves into something much more meaningful. While not completely avoiding the basic template of Richard Linklater’s Before films, The Day I Met You operates within a slightly broader frame, and this makes its incipient relationship that much more surprising, for characters and audience alike.

Zeca (Renato Novaes) is a large guy in his late twenties or early thirties. He works as a school librarian, a job he very much enjoys. But he’s been having trouble waking up in the morning, resulting in excessive tardiness and absenteeism. On the day in question, he actually has a chance to make it on time, but the bus from Belo Horizonte (where he lives) to Betim (where the school is) breaks down on the highway. We see Zeca grab a couple of empanadas while the next bus comes, almost misses the next bus, but catches it just in time.

Alas, it’s too little, too late, and Louisa (Grace Passô), one of his colleagues, breaks the news to him. He’s been fired. Feeling sorry for Zeca, Louisa offers him a ride home so he won’t have to deal with the bus again. As they start awkwardly chatting, they discover they have a number of things in common. They were two of only four people of color who worked at the school. And as they begin to open up to one another, they find that they are both facing similar challenges in life.

Novais Oliveira constructs The Day I Met You like a minimalist short story, combining a clear-eyed examination of the mundane world with unexpected focus on small, evocative details. We don’t learn a great deal about Zeca’s or Louisa’s pasts, but what we do see of the pair gives the sense that they are fully formed characters who encounter one another at a pivotal juncture in their lives. We get to share that experience, in all its confusion, humor, and hope.

Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2024.