Carolina Markowicz returns to the Festival with Toll, a film about a Brazilian mother who falls in with a gang of thieves in an attempt to keep her family afloat.
Confirming herself as one of Brazil’s clearest voices in current cinema, director Carolina Markowicz returns to the Festival after regaling audiences with last year’s uniquely dark and twisted comedy CHARCOAL. While training her singular gaze again on the dynamics by which a small family unit tries to stay afloat in the face of chaos, the tone and focus here differ greatly. The narrative and formal economy honed by Markowicz allow rising star Maeve Jinkings to widen her range within a story of motherhood as tough love gone wrong.
When Suellen (Jinkings), a toll booth attendant, realizes she can use her job to help a gang of thieves steal prized accessories from the wealthy people driving between São Paulo and the coast, she convinces herself she’s doing it for a noble cause: to send her teenage son, Antonio (an incredibly assured Kauan Alvarenga) to an expensive gay conversion workshop led by a renowned priest. But she unwittingly triggers a chain of events that will leave no one happy, except maybe the thieves.
Sneaking into an industrial milieu and the ethically conflicting life stories that lie at its heart, Markowicz discovers strength in the fragile, as Antonio’s unfazed take on adversity allows him to find his own voice every day, while Suellen and her work buddy struggle to not get crushed by guilt. It’s all part of a changing social landscape, one that seems to move as fast as the vehicles forced to pay their dues at the toll.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: violence, sexual content, coarse language