Fifteen is an uncomfortable age. While at the time most of us felt like we were well on our way to adulthood, the world still rightfully saw us as children running carelessly through public spaces and making awkward overtures to the opposite sex. But sometimes adolescence brings unexpected responsibilities that force us to grow up much quicker than we could ever expect. In the case of the Brazilian film Ausencia (Absence), by Chico Teixeira, adulthood rapidly befalls fifteen-year-old Serginho when his father one day up and leaves the family. While Serginho struggles to keep his household under control, holding down a job at a local produce market while he cares for his younger brother and depressed mother, he longs for affection that only a father could give.

Throughout the film, Teixeira shows our young protagonist wandering through life in the city, hanging with his friends, visiting a beloved teacher and an aunt who works in a nearby circus, all the while searching desperately for an emotional security no one seems able to give. All of this is accomplished with a clean, straightforward style that effectively captures the São Paulo cityscape while keeping the camera trained on Serginho as he moves through his world in the midst of an unspoken crisis. If the numerous accolades the film picked up in 2015 are any indication, the true strength of Teixeiras latest feature is found in a subtle but powerful performance by seventeen-year-old Metheus Fagundes, who plays Serginho.

Ausencia played as part of the Panorama section of 2015’s Berlinale and picked up a Best Actor Award and Special Jury Prize at the Rio Film Festival.