Directed by Andrucha Waddington, starring Regina Case, Lima Duarte, Stenio Garcia and Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos.

'Me You Them' is a Brazilian film based on a true story about a woman who lives with three lovers. The filmmakers have called it a bittersweet comedy, and for once the tag is justified, supplying the requisite humour and sadness at all the right points and never straying into the shark filled waters of the bawdy sex farce.

The film tells the story of Darlene, played by Regina Case, a poor peasant woman who we first meet heavily pregnant and ditched at the altar. The film is her story. It is a tale of survival against the odds, thanks to her ability to make an impossible situation work. She takes three men into her bed - although not all at the same time. These three end up living together and each father a child to her. All three are well aware of the situation but will not leave Darlene.

'Me You Them' is about the economics of survival. Darlene's needs, and those of her brood, cannot be met by the home owning Osias, the affectionate Zezhino, or the passionate Ciro alone. Only by combining all three can Darlene and her children survive in the ravaged landscape.

The four main actors put in brilliant performances, particularly Case whose astonishing portrayal of Darlene dominates the film. Waddington allows the actors to be on the screen without doing, or even saying very much for extended periods. The cinematography is stunning, evoking the stark, unforgiving beauty of the Brazilian landscape. The direction shows a deft touch, balancing the competing interests of comedy and tragedy, action and contemplation, to create a unique work.

Reflecting on love, friendship and our shared humanity, 'Me You Them' focuses not on the sensational aspects of this household, but the human ones. As a film where plot, character and emotions are important, it is a refreshing antidote to the mindless, heartless slop that Hollywood has thrown up this summer. You'll feel better coming out of the cinema than you did going in, and that is a rare experience.

John Raftery

'Me You Them' is at the Irish Film Centre, Dublin until 23 August 2001.