Before anything about this film is mentioned, it must be noted that the director of ‘Gebo And The Shadow’, Manoel de Oliveira, will turn 104 this year. The abundant experience showed in his storytelling style. The film, adapted from a play, doesn't end up seeming too different from a theatrical presentation itself. It revolves around Gebo, his wife and his daughter-in-law, coping up with the notoriousness of his son, who is an outlaw.
The film ends up becoming a compelling conversational drama. First-rate performances by the cast, astute cinematography and the simple screenplay, add a great deal of charm to the film.
Gebo, his wife, Doroteia, and daughter-in-law, Sofia, are troubled by the prolong absence of Joao. While the mother is anxious to see her son, who has turned out to be a dreaded criminal, again, she is all the more saddened by the fact that her husband is hiding something from her. Sofia, although quite eagerly waiting for her husband to return, fears that once he does, things may not be the same. One day, Joao does arrive but ends up worsening the financial and the mental condition of his family.
The film is primarily about how much trust you can possibly invest in your loved ones. It also deals with the fact that no matter how miserable life gets, one should not do anything that leaves a question mark over their conscience. The film is mainly a conversational drama. Even the scenes hardly move beyond the living room, giving the film a play-like feel. The dialogue is wonderfully written and even the subtitling is well-done.
On an idealistic level, the film is open to various interpretations. The best thing about the film is that no character is entirely righteous or negative. They have their own justifications for the way they behave and it does make sense too. In real life, you don't seem people undergoing a sea-change in their basic nature and that is exactly what the film conveys.
The dialogues may get a bit monotonous. It does get difficult following the proceedings in the middle where there's continuous conversation among the characters. Even tougher, for those who have to read the subtitles! However, the film is thought-provoking, without being overtly preachy. Fairly gripping as well!