Nineteen-year-old Macabéa works as a typist in Brasilia. With little money, less grace or beauty, and almost no education, she leads a wretched life: her roommates say she smells, her only pal calls her ugly, and her boyfriend Olimpico - no great shakes himself - tells her she's an idiot. Unusually, the director places this plain Jane nonentity centre-screen to present a beguilingly unsentimental portrait of ignorance, cultural poverty, and stunted emotions. Nothing much happens: the girl avoids being sacked, eats like a pig, rides the Metro, and takes aimless walks with her not exactly beloved Olimpico. But Amaral's precise and never condescending direction ensures that we follow this most unsympathetic of heroines to the end of the line, forestalling bathos by means of a stark, robust humour. Only Bresson's Mouchette suggests a precedent for this film's determination to reveal, rather than dignify, a life of utter banality; but what the comparison fails to evoke is Amaral's ability to uplift without Catholic contrivance.