Violence, the sexualization of the body and religious fanaticism clash in this powerful coming-of-age story. In Kill Me Please, a group of four young girlfriends confront the perils of growing up middle class in suburban Brazil. This is the debut feature film by Director Anita Rocha da Silveira, who in her quest to cover a lot of complex issues, falls short of delivering a focused film. Still, she does a great job of depicting inequality and the burdensome social landscape for women via a psychological thriller that is — for the most part — an exciting ride if not a refreshing take on the coming of age story.
In Kill Me Please we meet a group of girlfriends who are discussing murders that have taken place in their neighborhood. All of the victims are young women. The girlfriends are at once morbidly curious and frightened by the events. One of them fantasizes about becoming a victim and letting herself perish in the hands of the perpetrator. It is a daring introduction to these young women who are still very innocent, though clearly exposed to an environment that is not woman-friendly, to say the least.
Rocha da Silveira, who also wrote the script, does well in exposing how the rampant violence in her country affects women who are already under tremendous pressure to be beautiful, sexual and — at the same time — pure under the guidelines of the intrusive Catholic Church. Rocha da Silveira delivers all these topics as a psychological thriller that includes the chases and screams of a scary movie with the very real concerns of exposure to violence and being connected to social media, while trying to cope with the traditional burdens of high school.
The main focus of the story is Bia (Valentina Herszage), a 15-year-old who is part of the group obsessing over the murders in the neighborhood. The suburbs of São Paulo are presented as a desolate place filled with high rises and quickly developing car culture. When Bia and her friends are on foot, there is an element of danger, as the streets are either not fully formed or seem to favor cars over people. Bia has a boyfriend, and they are sexually active, yet the relationship gets stuck when Bia comes face-to-face with death. In one of the many journeys to and from school, the girls hear some cries and whispers and find a half-dead young woman who has been victimized in the most brutal way. While Bia’s friends run for help, she stays behind and faces this young woman. The close encounter resonates throughout the second half of the film, and it marks the loss of innocence of this young woman.
Through the second half of the film, Rocha da Silveira makes it clear that the exposure to violence and the current atmosphere in Brazilian society comes at a heavy price for women. Through the character of Bia, she explores how alienation in these new suburbs can quickly become dangerous and hard to avoid. The members of Bia’s clique also go through their own upheaval, changing that internal bravado synonymous with bring young to a more somber outlook for all of them. The ending is wide open to interpretation, yet surely a critique to the rapid commercialization and adolescent disengagement. Rocha da Silveira’s eye captures well the female experience yet takes on too many complex issues for a single film.
Kill Me Please runs 101 minutes, is in Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitle and is not rates. I was able to catch a screening as part of the AFI Silver’s Latin and Iberoamerican Film Festival. For more information, please click here.