City of Men (review)

This is television to make you feel as if you’ve never seen television before. Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund reinvent the episodic series with verve, sending the lives of their two young heroes — played by Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha, both of whom appeared in their groundbreaking film City of God — soaring into the near mythic while never letting them entirely escape their grim reality. They live in a massive Brazilian slum, run by drug lords and teeming with too many poor, desperate people, and every day is a struggle to keep out of the way of the gangs and the guns, to not get caught up in that world, either accidentally or by choice, to keep oneself amused and alive in this dangerous place. Not that these 19 episodes — the complete run from the show’s four seasons — are relentlessly grim: a lively brand of ironic humor runs through the show, one keyed off the boys’ own self-awareness about their own limitations. The funny and poignant final episode, for instance, features the two young stars, playing themselves, exploring the possibilities for the future lives after the end of the show — it doesn’t look hopeful, but they cling to hope anyway. There are, alas, no extras included in the set.

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