Willem Dafoe is an incredible talent. Having been in over 100 films in his career he has played everything from Comic Book Villains to Ship’s Captains never once giving a poor performance regardless of the quality of the film or the strength of the story. This tradition of greatness continues in this film by Brazilian writer Director Hector Babenco.
Portraying film Director Diego Fairman, Dafoe, follows this character as he struggles with his expected death by cancer. He is bitter, angry, lashing out at everyone but soon finds he must find his way and rebuild his life from the ground up when his sickness costs him everything he loves. It is through the time spent with a young Hindu boy, who is also sick with cancer, that Fairman begins to realize there is more to life than a constant battle, that in order to die well, he must learn to live again, no matter how hard that might be.
Passing not long after this completion of this film, My Hindu Friend marks the final film of famed Brazilian Director Hector Babenco. Serving as somewhat of a self portrait and a documentation of his real battle with Cancer this film is a mixed bag of real life experiences and strange, almost supernatural moments. Going in you have to understand that much of the story seemingly takes place in Fairman’s head depicting what seems like stray thoughts and personal conversations with death that Babenco may have had in his struggles with the life altering disease.
Exploring the entire range of his battle with cancer, from diagnosis to his post remission ‘rebirth’, we see the story of a man who is learning to live again, knowing that his days are still very limited. While it has it’s moments, this is not a ‘feel good’ film but rather a declaration of life, death and everything in between allowing it to explore any and every emotion associated with the life and death of this filmmaker. It is both beautiful and tragic, chaotic and sublime. While I never encountered Babenco’s films in the past, it is clear that this director had an artistic vision that could not be diminished even though his own life was coming to an end.
While the film itself is very much an ‘art’ film and may not be for everyone, if anything, this film shows us the incredible talent that is Willem Dafoe. As I mentioned earlier, Dafoe is a talent that feels somewhat unappreciated in our modern age of high budget blockbusters. Sure he has played the villain in a comic film and even himself a number of times but his talent seems to have been ignored by many film goers. Dafoe has the ability to steal a scene even if he is no where to be seen. He has an energy and a power behind his sunken eyes that make you forget that he is an actor playing a part but forces you to accept that he is indeed the madman, the ships captain, or in this case, a dying and bitter director. I would be shocked if he was not nominated for an Acadamy Award for this role.
The Bottom Line
My Hindu Friend is a tragic and deeply moving tale made all that more memorable as it comes from a very personal place. Understanding that this is essentially Hector Babenco’s final message to his audience, it has a weight to it that is almost palpable made only that much stronger by Defoe’s depiction of this director.
This is certainly not a film for everyone, but it is one worth watching. Rock Salt Films will be Releasing ‘My Hindu Friend’ onto Amazon Prime on 6/1 followed by a physical release soon after with multiple streaming platforms. If you want to see Dafoe in one of his most powerful roles in many years, this is one you need to see.
Thanks for reading!
Late To The Game 5/18/2020
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