I just learned that the soap-opera premise of the Brazilian export "A Wolf at the Door" is based on actual events. I know that films play free and loose with stories inspired by real life, but that just made an already chilling movie a little more impactful.

I just learned that the soap-opera premise of the Brazilian export “A Wolf at the Door” is based on actual events. I know that films play free and loose with stories inspired by real life, but that just made an already chilling movie a little more impactful.

Writer and first-time director Fernando Coimbra runs audiences through the wringer from the start, as young mother Silvia (Fabiula Nascimento) goes to her daughter’s school to learn that someone has already picked up her daughter.

Under interrogation in the police station, Silvia’s husband Bernardo (Milhem Cortaz) admits he’s been carrying on an affair with the younger Rosa (Leandra Leal), whom becomes a suspect in the kidnapping.

From this taut setup, Coimbra then unfolds the tale in reverse — through sometimes conflicting narratives — through twists and turns that make us feel sympathy for characters we perhaps should not.

Its basic premise is an indictment on infidelity and an exploration of its consequences, but “Wolf” is more complex. Coimbra’s telling of the tale has the dark humor and moral conundrums found in one of my other favorite imports this year, “Wild Tales.” Then it just gets really, really dark.

It’s a huge testament to the actors that you can sympathize with a character one minute and hate him/her the next. Leal is particularly devastating in an “other woman” role that flirts with clichés, but rises above them.

“Wolf” is an emotionally brutal thriller, and my pick for the week.

Photo courtesy of Outsider Pictures