The Way He Looks is a heart-warming film that explores the intersection of sexuality, gender, and ability. The main character Leonardo has been blind his entire life and has been subjected to harassment from the other students who see him as a lesser person because of his disability. The movie expertly shows the intersection of Leonardo’s blindness and his thoughts on his sexuality. Leonardo believes that, due to his blindness, nobody, especially not a girl would want to kiss him and subsequently love him as well. The question of “Who would want to kiss a blind man?” is left for the audience to think about as Leonardo continues on his usual routine until a new student named Gabriel appears. Gabriel is completely different from the other people in Leonardo’s life, as he treats Leonardo as if he wasn’t blind. Leonardo’s parents and best friend, Giovanna, treat Leo as if he were made a glass, making it as though his disability requires constant supervision. He is made to feel controlled and trapped, unable to enjoy growing up into a young adult because his parents don’t trust him to be alone. This shows the socialization of bodies, where disabled people are see as incompetent and need help in almost every aspect of their daily lives. Gabriel on the other hand invites Leo to watch a movie (and he would narrate what was happening), to sneak out to see an eclipse and offers to teach him to ride a bike. He treats Leo as an equal and is more than willing to accommodate for his lack of sight. In these moments, Leo’s thoughts on sexuality and love come back into play as he realizes that he might like Gabriel, as more than just a friend. It‘s interesting to note that Leo’s sexuality may be influenced by his blindness, as Leo can’t see the physical difference between a man and a woman. He seems more focused on a person’s actions and words thus Gabriel’s personal behavior is very attractive to him. The fact that Leo is gay changes nothing else about him and in the film; his homosexuality is subtlety revealed compared to his blindness I appreciate that they don’t make an event of it. Another wonderful aspect of the film is that the main characters, Giovanna, Leonardo and Gabriel, do not follow the typical societal norms for their gender. Hegemonic masculinity is prevalent in the school bullies; they are portrayed as macho, disrespectful and misogynistic as they like to assert power over others especially girls. The complete opposite can be said for Gabriel and Leo, as they never attempt to assert their power over others and Leo personally understands what it’s like for someone to have little control in their life. For the female characters Giovanna is the only young female who stands up for themselves against the guys, she also stands up for Leo when he is picked on. While the other secondary female characters display emphasized femininity, they seem to follow commands by men without refusal and they only are there in a scene to look pretty and get drunk. Overall, I love this film and felt it was a wonderful and simple representation of sexuality while incorporating the aspect of what define someone as disabled. Leo is such a likable character that you can’t do anything but hope that things work out for him; you want him and Giovanna to work out their friendship and you want Leo and Gabriel to realize the affection they have for each other. As a viewer you become invested in these characters and story, and movie puts on a smile on your face no matter what you felt coming into it
One key scene to me was when Leo and Gabriel sneak out to watch an eclipse. Of course Leo can’t see the eclipse, so Gabriel explains it using a rock diagram, carefully moving Leo’s hands around to feel what an eclipse is. The scene beautifully shows that just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. Gabriel breaks the stigma that most people associate with Leo (that he needs to be watched over because he’s blind); instead of limiting and controlling Leo’s actions, Gabriel encourages Leo to explore new things that he didn’t think he could do and Gabriel is there to explain and support him. This scene is also important, as later on in the movie Leo is able to use the eclipse as away to explain his friendship with Giovanna; even though there is something between them now – Gabriel – it with eventually disappear and they still will be able to be friends.
Attending the film festival was an amazing experience for me; it was great to interact with members of the Queer/LGBQT community and enjoy films that celebrated their lives and explored their troubles. The festival is an opportunity for Kingston as a whole to come together and support the LGBQT community. It is also a way to inform and teach the students of Queen’s University about gender and sexuality, which they will be able to spread to their families and friends back home.