Me You Them (Portuguese)

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First Darlene, wearing a wedding gown, gets on a bus and leaves the dusty Brazilian desert village she grew up in. Next, it’s three years later, and she returns by bus — this time carrying a child but with no husband in sight.

So begins “Me You Them,” a light-hearted Brazilian drama with an off-center attitude about modern relationships.

Though Darlene (Regina Case, the “Brazilian Oprah,” I’m told) masks it with a smart-aleck persona, she recognizes her limited options as a single mother in the rural wasteland of her home. With her own mother dead since she left home three years ago, she has no family, and she must work in the fields by day to earn a living. So she accepts a marriage proposal from Osias Linhares (Lima Duarte), a man several years her elder who nonetheless offers her a comfortable home and the promise of a livable future.

What he fails to mention is that he’s a boorish jackass. While he reclines in his hammock and watches the kid with one eye, Darlene works to support them all. She also has another child, this one of a different race altogether from her husband, though Osias seems not to care. She begins a sweet relationship with Osias’ diffident cousin Zezinho (Stenio Garcia), who later moves in with the Linhareses.

Yet another lover enters the picture when Darlene meets Ciro (Luis Carlos Vasconcelos), a handsome young laborer who also moves into the Linhares house. This time, Osias seems to embarce Ciro’s presence as a means of making Zezinho jealous, though he begins to have that effect on Osias himself, too.

It’s a strange little arrangement they’ve got there, but credit director Andrucha Waddington and writer Elena Soarez for keeping it out of the sex-farce genre. There is very little sneaking around or stealing kisses behind the shed, as the secrecy of Darlene’s various relationships is not the focus of the plot. It’s the way she uses three different men to acquire the things she needs, emotionally and temporally — though “uses” is not a fair word, because she’s not doing it selfishly or cruelly.

Regina Case has a broad, friendly smile with row upon row of huge teeth. She is not beautiful in the classical sense, but one can imagine why men might come to love her. She is appealing in her ability to create Darlene as a desperate character who manages not to act desperate — and, for that matter, as a woman of fairly loose morals, sexually speaking, who manages not to seem like a tramp.

The humor in the film is subtle and unobtrusive, though the overall impact can surely be felt as you realize that for a drama, “Me You Them” is rarely very serious and hardly dramatic. This is not necessarily a liability, but the fim’s extremely slow pacing could be. As nice as the characters may be to watch, they can wear out their welcome when so many scenes are devoted to watching them do almost nothing.

B- (; PG-13, some mild sexuality and adult subject matter.)