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CENTRAL STATION (15)

Director: Walter Salles

Starring: Fernanda Montenegro, Vinicius de Oliveira

Rio's teeming rail terminus serves as the effective launchpad for Walter Salles's Oscar- nominated Brazilian fable. A road-movie of sorts, Central Station trails Fernanda Montenegro's retired schoolmarm and her abandoned nine- year-old charge (Vinicius de Oliveira) on a hunt through the badlands of Sertao for the boy's father. The trip takes in all facets of Brazil's poverty-stricken culture, yet Salles steadfastly refuses to make any heavy-handed political point here. Instead, his social critique remains implicit, low down in the mix. The fine, unshowy acting is set off nicely by Walter Carvalho's haunting visuals, as Central Station blooms by degrees into a picture that is both intimate and universal.

Limited release

PATCH ADAMS (12)

Director: Tom Shadyac

Starring: Robin Williams, Monica Potter

Through the hallowed halls of medical college goes Hunter "Patch" Adams (Robin Williams); a winsome shock-doc who has the patients in stitches while giving a collective hernia to the stuffy establishment.

Patch, you see, subscribes to the theory that laughter is the best medicine of all. Idling on your deathbed? Well, here's Patch to stick an enema bulb on his snout and send you off with a smile. Still not happy? No problemo: Patch has a whole heap more comedy tricks up the sleeves of his regulation white coat. Still that's Patch Adams: Awakenings without the angst, Dead Poets Society without the heart. It's like the ultimate distillation of the ultimate Robin Williams movie: the life sucked out and replaced by syrup.

Countrywide

PLEASANTVILLE (12)

Director: Gary Ross

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon

See The Independent Recommends, right.

Countrywide

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