What so easily could be exploitation or misery porn is instead a harrowing work of clear intent. This is helped by giving a clear framing at the start: an out of fiction statement to make it clear that what you are seeing may be dramatised, but it is reflective of a social reality.
And so we watch this social reality. This feels like cameras being pointed in the right place, and the camera doesn’t flinch. We are made to watch great discomfort and horror, the plight of these children (especially the titular Pixote) spirals out before us. It is laced with aching tragedy, constant verbal references forward to what they presume will be a better time, but we know won’t be.
As a purely dramatic work, it is uneven and inelegant. This feels by design, though, as it helps it remain a reality rather than a sense of fictive satisfaction.