Hector Babenco’s final film is quite a fascinating film as it is based on elements of his real-life, with a wonderful performance by Willem Dafoe in a role inspired by the late filmmaker.
Diego Fairman is a celebrated film director who is now an unhappy man because he has learned he has cancer. After careful consideration, he decides to go away for a bone marrow transplant. However, he decides to get married to his girlfriend Livia first before heading to the hospital in Seattle to begin treatment. At first, he finds the treatment painful and very discouraging and thus, he starts treating everyone around him like dirt.
Still finding himself at a crossroads, he eventually meets a young Hindu boy who is undergoing the same treatment as him. The two soon bond and Diego begins to undergo a change in his attitude. Telling his stories to the young boy, Diego slowly begins to realize that should he survive, he will have to begin treating those who have been with him a lot better.
Brazilian director Hector Babenco made this film prior to his passing at the age of 70 in 2016. What stands out with this swan song are two things. The first is that the film was originally meant to be a full-on Portuguese film but when Babenco decided to cast Willem Dafoe in the lead role, it was decided that the film would be mostly in English with some Portuguese mixed in. The second is that Babenco made this a semi-autobiographical film based on his experience when in 1994, he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer.
Willem Dafoe is excellent in the central role of Diego. His opening line, “What did I do?” gives him a sense of blaming himself for what has happened in his life. It is as if he blames himself for having cancer. Perhaps it is this self-blaming that causes him to be spiteful towards those close to him. Even at his own wedding, he manages to incur the wrath of a fellow director by trashing him about the director’s latest film.
The first half of the film is where we see Diego at his worst. However, it is when he meets this young Hindu boy, played by newcomer Rio Adlakha, that Diego sees life for the better. From telling him stories to having a fun adventure with him as they play pretend when they believe they are getting chased by cops, it shows Diego’s more better side to the film. And that leads to seeing a more likable Diego in the second half despite one small misgiving that ultimately proves to be forgivable by the end, which has a very erotic rendition of the classic “Singin’ in the Rain”.
My Hindu Friend is a beautiful and realistic look at a directing legend’s final film, a semi-autobiographical film about a life changing experience and once again, Willem Dafoe shows why he is a very talented legend.
WFG RATING: A-
Rock Salt Releasing presents a HB Filmes production. Director: Hector Babenco. Producer: Hector Babenco. Writer: Hector Babenco. Cinematography: Mauro Pinheiro Jr. Editing; Gustavo Giani.
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Maria Fernanda Candido, Barbara Paz, Selton Mello, Reynaldo Gianecchini, Rio Adlakha.