Review: Central Station (1998) – June 24, 2015 on LaLaFilm.com
Fortunately, this Brazilian film was widely recognized and distributed in 1998 so upon its release in the U.S., I was able to go see it in a theatre here. I was blown away by it then and recently decided to watch it again.
Central Station still holds up as a classic exposé of how people are interconnected/affected and the power of the choices they make as a result of that.
Dora (perfectly played by Fernanda Montenegro), is a former school teacher, who now earns her way by writing letters for the illiterate. Illiterate yes, but with a lot to express and who entrust Dora to be their pen and paper and to mail their messages to whomever they are so urgently trying to reach. Seems good but the cynical Dora pockets their money and rather than mailing their letters, she shuts them away in a drawer. But it’s when a mother and son trust Dora to send a letter to the boy’s father that their worlds collide and all explodes.
Soon after meeting Dora, the boy’s mother accidentally dies, leaving him orphaned and alone, sleeping in the Central Station. (The boy, Josué is maturely played by Vinícius de Oliveira.) The shrewd Dora seizes this as another opportunity to make some cash and sells Josué to a supposed adoption agency. The story could end there, but thankfully it doesn’t.
There is good in everyone, even in the hardest of souls, and so the next morning Dora wakes and decides to steal back Josué and sets out to take him to his father, a man he has never met. Josué is no one’s victim, as he goes with Dora, but with the total awareness of her distrustful ways.
Throughout the film there are signposts of Godly scriptures of sorts. They are strategically placed more for the viewer than for the characters, although it is inferred that God has his guiding hand in the situation.
Dora’s character is tested throughout as Josué’s streetwise words throw her failings right back at her. We see glimpses of empathy from Dora, even at the outset, but it seems to be a struggle for her to give into it. Eventually, the tug of war ends and Dora surrenders to good.
I can continue describing this film in words, but Central Station has a special anointing that must be felt. It will touch you.
When I saw this film in 1998, it really moved me. While watching the story play out, the colorfully-crafted cinematic images were permanently impressed upon with me. Watching it again, all these years later, didn’t change that. In fact, I think it affected me even more this time.
I have been to Brazil twice (so far), and have made a few friends from there. I am drawn to it because some of the Brazilians I have known are unforgettable. This film seems to put a stamp on that emotion.
It’s more than a heartfelt film. It is just amazing. And the truth is that this story can be portrayed anywhere in the world, and the moral could still be the same. But what makes this film unique is that there’s more to it than that. It is charming and magical and has the power to make even the most hard-hearted people concede to tears.