July 20th. You’re thinking you’ve seen the best of this year’s Maine International Film Festival films, and there have been many. But wait. “Good Manners” is here at Railroad Square Cinema One. Wait.

“Good Manners” is a new film by Brazilian co-directors Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra. It’s a supremely deceptive title. Ignore it at once. Continue.

This is how the film is described:

“Clara (Isabel Zuaa), an unemployed caseworker, is a poor, black immigrant living on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Struggling to make ends meet, she lands a job as a live-in nanny to the as yet unborn child of a wealthy young woman named Ana (Marjorie Estiano). They immediately develop a strong bond. But Ana’s increasingly strange behavior hints at a deep, dark secret.”

Dark secret? Really? Hold on to your hat. Something wicked this way comes, and I assure you, you’re not prepared for it. Get Father Merrin on the phone.

After four hours of watching and re-watching this film, I find that I do not have the adequate vocabulary to prepare you properly for what you’re about to see, but I am paid to write this review, and I will struggle to find the words.


“Manners” begins as the story of how Clara meets Ana. Ana is a kind of sweet, ditzy millennial who lives alone in a posh high-rise paid for by her disgusted absentee father that overlooks a magical cityscape that looks part Oz and part Super Disney World.

We can see that Ana is very pregnant and not quite sure how it happened. We learn later on, in an inserted graphic comic book chapter, that she remembers being seduced by a dark, handsome stranger while parked on the edge of the woods. That guy in the doorway, is he wearing a priest’s collar?

Ana seems to enjoy raw red meat and keeps football-size bags of it in her otherwise empty fridge. Uh-huh.

Despite her condition, she drinks and smokes. By day she joyfully engages in wonderful, fierce exercises to rock videos. By night, she dons sexy black dresses shimmering with Las Vegas beads, guzzles beer, and dances solo to country western music in front of the electric fireplace.

Clara is bemused by Ana’s behavior but remains cautious. Determined to hold on to this job, she tries to keep a safe distance.

But on the sixth night, by the light of a full moon, Clara hears footsteps. Ana is up and sleepwalking down the stairs.


Out the door and through the city she goes in her transparent nightie, walking through this fairy tale city’s empty streets, under the full moon (are you taking notes?), with its towering glass buildings and empty neon-lighted shops.

Clara follows her, eventually finding her in a parking garage petting a stray cat before … close your eyes, but don’t leave. There’s more. A lot more.

Clara takes her Ana home, wipes the cat’s blood from her lips (don’t ask), and puts her patient to bed. But Ana pulls her down beside her. Lips and hands meet and the love story begins to unfold — big time.

What we have now absolutely must be described as the first lesbian love story thriller horror wolf-woman magical fable with songs and music. “Manners” is the story “Rosemary’s Baby” should have been.

“Good Manners” is no schlock joke. It turns out to be one of the most beautifully photographed horror movies, superbly directed and best of the genre in years.

Happily, there isn’t a dull scene in it, with one dazzling, stunning, magical moment after another. That’s my standard vocabulary.


When the long labor is over, the baby is born. This is the one scene I truly don’t have the words for. Nothing will prepare you for it.

When Clara, hearing the screams, rushes in, the baby is at the foot of the bed.

That’s all I’m going to tell you. Let me now take a moment to praise the work. First, Isabel Zuaa: Her Clara is mesmerizing and fierce.

Marjorie Estiano is simply superb, and her Stygian journey from flittering party girl into hell’s Hallmark Mother of the Year is flawlessly crafted.

And the “baby”? Young Miguel Lobo, who survives his arrival and grows to be the deceptively little boy Clara names Joel, is terrific.

The key word throughout this shattering experience is “magic.” The music by Guilherme and Gustavo Garbato is a melodic wind that carries us along through the sweet and the sacrilegious. Rui Pocas’ camera? A magic lantern waved by a magician.

As to the writing and direction of Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas? I don’t want to know how they did it. Magicians never reveal their tricks.

“Good Manners.” See it now. Take your rosary, holy water and Pepto Bismol, and leave grandma at home.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.

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