Romance in film can be handled either poetically and deep or shallow and uninteresting. We see the hope and the promise through characters who handle love in delicate and profound ways. In the new love story Porto, we are presented with two very different people but who gravitate towards one another in a very dramatic way. The late great Anton Yelchin gives yet another fantastic performance here in one of his final film roles. The 27-year-old actor was killed tragically in 2015, putting an end to his young but already highly established career. Porto is an intriguing look at young love and the acting by both Yelchin and his on-screen counterpart Lucie Lucas (Clem, Crush in Jaipur, Si tu n'es pas là) simply steal the show.
Young American Jake Kleeman (Yelchin) is floating along in life. His current location is the beautiful city of Porto in Portugal. He soon comes across the alluring Mati Vargnier (Lucas) and the connection is instant. Not only is the physical attraction alive and well but so is the emotional and two soon embark on an intense romantic adventure. Obstacles come their way such as other lovers and bad luck and the film tells their story in a realistic and tender way.
Porto is a love story through and through. It may seem tragic at times but such is life. This film is a slice of realism and the humanistic performances from both Yelchin and Lucas are electric and will be sure to resonate with audiences. There are scenes where they just lay in bed naked, staring into each other’s eyes. No dialogue is needed in these moments since the actors through their body language tell oh so much. The relationship portrayed on screen is flawed but then again there are shades of perfection. Most romantic relationships contain their fair share of faults and Jake and Mati’s is no exception. We are even presented with a narrative that goes back and forth from past to present and back again, making for a jarring and unpredictable cinematic ride.
Newcomer writer/director Gabe Klinger has demonstrated an artistic touch and very strong style here, both in dialogue and in visual tone. The camera is shaky at times, making for a very documentary-ish vibe and the lighting is both eerie and romantic, with some scenes occurring at dusk or dawn. Having said that, veteran cinematographer Wyatt Garfield (Gabriel, Beatriz at Dinner, Mediterranea) has painted a hauntingly beautiful picture here with his exquisite and unique eye.
Porto is not your typical Hollywood blockbuster by any stretch of the imagination. It is a moving little film that will make you contemplate and examine the complexities of love. The story is told in flashbacks and the main characters mesh with other characters. There are no heroes or villains in this story and the motives and actions by said characters are questionable at times. Love is raw and can be harsh at times and this film brilliantly explores that. A bittersweet film, Porto needs be not only seen but experienced and with star Anton Yelchin now gone, this lovely film is powerful proof that he had many more great films ahead of him. All we can do is appreciate his last few hours on camera as they are a sound tribute to the late great actor.