the perfect warmth
by Douglas Messerli
Daniel Ribeiro (writer and director) Café com Leite (You, Me and Him) / 2007 [18 min.]
Brazilian director Daniel Ribeiro’s first film of 2007, Café com Leite (You, Me and Him) , released seven long years before his acclaimed The Way He Looks, is clearly an apprentice work—although it won the Crystal Bear for best short film at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival and played in numerous international film festivals. Certainly, part of its appeal is the quiet gentleness with which it tackles its quite difficult subject of how to develop and sustain a gay relationship when suddenly faced with new family responsibilities that the central character of this work imagined he was just about to escape.
The short film begins with two lovers, Danilo (Daniel Tavares) and Marcos (Diego Torraca) in bed, evidently after having just enjoyed a sexually satisfying night. Having made enough money to finally leave his parents’ home and rent his own apartment, Danilo invites his lover to move in with him which Marcos correctly interprets as a marriage proposal which he quickly accepts, the two engaging in pleasurable kisses and planning to convert their previously planned anniversary vacation into a honeymoon.
By the time Danilo reaches home, however, he discovers that his parents have just been killed in an accident, leaving his young brother Lucas (Eduardo Melo) home alone, hunkered down in the hallway in tears as he awaits his brother’s arrival.
For the first week there is hardly time to think about his relationship with Marcos, let alone to find a way to engage in sex with him in their shared bed next to Lucas’ bedroom. And both men, along with the film’s viewers, fear that their deep love may not survive the radical changes in Danilo’s life, who insists that his brother remain in his care instead of being shipped off to a distant uncle and aunt.
There are, as well, the unsaid issues of the two men’s past that Lucas is well aware of. Apparently, although Danilo’s father loved Marcos as his son’s friend, upon discovering the true nature of their relationship turned against him within the confines of home, perhaps not witnessed by Danilo but certainly not lost on his little brother.
Ribeiro nicely handles this material nicely by
having Marcos pick up Lucas from school one day when Danilo is busy at work. As
the two warily greet one another, Lucas, like most children who are openly
honest in expressing their feelings, admits that his father did not like Marcos
and wonders aloud whether or not he must take the same stance against his
brothers “boyfriend,” a
Yet we still sense the boys’ resistance to the change when that night Lucas asks if he might sleep between the two, but clings to his brother entirely while ignoring the “boyfriend.”
Nearly all the blurbs and small commentaries about this film suggest a positive ending, positing the possibility that they simply will need to learn how to all live together.
The film ends with a beautiful attempt at just that, as Danilo, with several glasses of milk set out before them works with Lucas to test various microwave temperatures to bring the boy’s chocolate milk to the perfect warmth. But there is no assurance in Ribeiro’s tender film that Marcos may, upon his return. restore that the same “warmth” with his lover. As Ribeiro reveals in The Way He Looks his sensibility is so sweet that it is hard to imagine things will not work out in the end, that people can change their feelings and readapt. Yet in this small gem, the director gives us no assurances while still buoying up with his fragile work with hope.
Los Angeles, December 1, 2020
Reprinted from My Queer Cinema blog and World Cinema Review (December 2020).