Central Station

Institute History


Dora (Fernanda Montenegro) is a former school teacher who makes a living by writing letters for illiterate people passing through Rio de Janeiro's main train station, Central Station. Commuting to the city from impoverished suburbs, workers flock to her, hoping to contact lost family members, send love letters, or simply relate the details of their lives. Dora charges the equivalent of a dollar per letter she writes and a dollar more if she is asked to mail it. Among her clients are Ana (Soia Lira) and her nine-year-old son Josué (Vinícius de Oliveira), who has a fierce desire to meet his father, whom he has never seen and lives in Brazil's remote Northeast.

Dora has become stoically indifferent to the weight of her charge, choosing arbitrarily to send some letters and discard others. Every night, she takes the subway home to her apartment in the suburbs. There, Dora and her neighbor Irene (Marília Pêra), also single and living alone, read aloud the letters she has written during the day. Those that are considered important—a few—are mailed, and the rest are tossed in the garbage. If the two women disagree, the letter goes into a drawer, to await later judgment. One of these letters in the drawer is Ana and Josué's. But Dora's life is about to change dramatically. The next day, soon after Ana returns to Central Station with Josué and dictates a second letter to the boy's father, she is hit by a bus after leaving the station and dies. Left alone with no relatives in Rio, Josué wanders aimlessly around the station.

Swayed by a curiously maternal compassion, Dora resists her initial impulse to make a quick profit off the child and commits to returning Josué to his father in Brazil's Northeast. As buses and trucks carry the motley pair through the increasingly unfamiliar terrain, they defy their initial aversion to each other, journeying closer together and deeper inside themselves. The journey becomes a quest for their own identities: one boy's search for his father; one woman's search for her heart; a nation's yearning for its roots.

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