The director of The Constant Gardener, Fernando Meirelles, comes back with an obscure film fraught with chaos and hopelessness

Por Ana Paula Ayanegui
Updated Octubre 03, 2008
Credit: Miramax Films

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Gael García Bernal, Alice Braga and Danny Glover

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Screenwriter Don McKellar

Rating: R (Violence, sexual content and language)

Grade: B+

The film that was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival is based on the novel Blindness by Nobel Prize winner José Saramago. The story takes us directly to what seems to be a normal day. Yet soon we learn that a mysterious epidemic disease is making the world's entire population blind. Lacking a cure or a hope for one, the infected victims are taken to an old hospital where they are kept isolated from the rest of the world. Among the first victims are an ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo) and his wife (Julianne Moore), who seems to be immune to the mysterious illness, as well as a prostitute, (Alice Braga) and a bartender (Gael García Bernal).

At the beginning of the crisis the infected seem to understand that the key to survival is to help each other. But soon the place becomes crowded with victims, and there's not enough food or adequate sanitary conditions. That's when the survival instincts kick in, the situation turns increasingly intolerable, and the worse in human beings begins to surface.

This is an intense and profound story and it should be noted that Fernando Meirelles (City of God and The Constant Gardener) knows how to work those two elements. He has also gathered some of the best current actors to tell the story. Julianne Moore delivers a superb performance, which should surprise no one. So does Mark Ruffalo. Yet two young actors manage to steal every significant scenes in which they appear: the Brazilian Alice Braga and the Mexican Gael García Bernal.

The plot of this movie is far from fun and certainly won't lift anyone's spirit, but there's no question that it will get you thinking. Saramago's story shows how thin the line separating good from evil is, while it clearly demonstrates that humans are both capable of the worst atrocities and the kindest actions, equally prompted by exactly the same set of events. Summing up, though the film tells an interesting story and has good acting, do not expect great action scenes or romantic subplots. And forget about a typically simplistic Hollywood ending.