The Mutants | Chicago Reader

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This 1998 Portuguese film is a searing cri de coeur on behalf of Lisbon's homeless children. Rejected by dysfunctional families, often escaping from heartless institutions, they're victimized by others (Pedro and Ricardo by pornographers, Andreia by a boyfriend who leaves her pregnant) and not surprisingly victimize one another as well. Director Teresa Villaverde makes their plight come alive with a variety of isolating compositions: a boy arriving home appears framed in the front doorway against the landscape, his family invisible, and more than once a kid riding in a vehicle is shot from above, the character's head backed by the moving roadway. In one terribly painful sequence a variety of unbalanced compositions show Andreia screaming as she gives birth to her child in a lavatory—where she then abandons it. These decontextualizations convey the children's separation from society, making them the pained subjects of our gaze, and the film's warped visual spaces make that separation seem unnatural, even wrong.

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