In the opening scene of Daniel Ribeiro’s The Way He Looks, we meet our protagonist Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) and his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) having a conversation by a swimming pool. It’s not until the following sequence that we realise that Leo is actually blind – as a vital piece of information curiously left out by the director from the offset. However this is exactly what sets this Brazilian drama apart – because the fact he is blind, while a vital plot device, is ultimately irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, as we focus on the universal theme of young love, that anybody can identify with.

Though both lonely and somewhat unlucky in love, Leo and Giovani seem reluctant to get together, and it’s when their new classmate at school, Gabriel (Fabio Audi) comes into the mix when the reasons behind that become apparent – as he earns the affection of them both, with Leo in particular, discovering himself and coming to terms with his identity as he falls in love with his new classmate, allowing the visually impaired youngster to believe that anything is possible.

Considering our entry point into this world is both blind and gay – both of which help to shape and inform this narrative enormously – it’s a real credit to Ribeiro that even if you’re neither, this remains a film that is exceedingly easy to relate to, and emotionally engage with. We study the notion of first love and of adolescence, and all that comes with romance at such an impressionable age, while the fall outs and distinct juvenility is uncontrived throughout. The romance itself is so easy to invest in, and you root for it with such conviction. Towards the final stages you are desperate for Leo and Gabriel to come together, such is their natural spark and the fact you’ve grown so fond of them both, you want nothing but the best for them.

What helps tremendously in that regard, are the performances from our leading trio, particularly by the endearing Lobo, who plays the role without an ounce of sentimentality or pity, never looking for the sympathy vote given his condition. All three leads are blessed with nuanced roles and well-crafted characters, which is a real achievement that we feel this way given we have absolutely no idea of their back stories or lives prior to these events. Why Gabriel moved schools we don’t know, nor when Leo and Giovana became friends. But it doesn’t matter – all that matters is the here and now, and what happens within this narrative structure.

The Way He Looks is also incredibly moving, though on the whole this can only be described as uplifting cinema. Presented with such amicability and sincerity, you feel inspired and giddy at the close of play. Though too much of a good thing can be somewhat overbearing, every now and again it’s a complete joy to leave a cinema feeling so incredibly enthralled and enriched by what you’ve just witnessed.