‘Mars One’ review: A Brazilian family drama with more bounce than bite

We’ve only just settled into the funky beats of Gabriel Martins’ “Mars One,” meeting one by one the loving, eager family of four at its heart when, like the capable, brassy matriarch Tércia (Rejane Faria), we receive a shock to the system. Sitting at a lunch counter, Tércia tries to ignore the ramblings of a homeless man behind her. “Brazil is not for amateurs!” he bellows, and she fidgets, more irritated than alarmed, until the man pulls out a bomb. The other diners flee, but Tércia remains rooted in horror as she explodes.

That this apparent terrorist attack was in fact just a particularly nasty prank pulled by a television crew, is immediately revealed, though Tércia remains traumatized even when her family mocks her experience at dinner that night. And the fake can’t help but look a bit like Martins’ film in its entirety: despite a prologue setting it in the aftermath of the 2018 election that saw far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro assume Brazil’s presidency, “Mars One” is far less politically explosive than it is gently, humanly imploding. Following the family members’ personal anxieties and challenges as they pursue differently shaped dreams of escape, he is genuinely intentional and deeply loving towards his foursome. decent and effusive, but it’s a little disorienting that he has to punch just to deliver a hug.

Tércia is a housekeeper by day who keeps her own house in order by night. She is married to Wellington (Carlos Francisco), a football fan and recovering alcoholic who works as a caretaker at a lavish building. Their son Deivinho (Cícero Lucas) is a quiet, bespectacled schoolboy whose soccer talent is his father’s great hope for the future, but who secretly wants to study astrophysics and be part of the first Mars colony in the world. humanity. His sister Eunice (Camilla Damião) studies law at university while sharing a bunk bed with Deivinho. She gets serious with her new girlfriend, Joana (Ana Hilario), despite her parents not knowing she’s gay.

The social circumstances sketched out here – a little overtly at times, as Martins’ script tends to bring into dialogue what has already been put into action – are such that it is not just the lack of money that torments the family, it is is proximity to wealth. Tercia cooks and cleans for a little television celebrity, who has fun with her like best friends, except he can go to Paris with her boyfriend on a trip while Tercia, when she needs to get away, decides his destination by choosing the cheapest bus. Wellington has his imperious and authoritative boss and the residents of his high-end building to go up against; Eunice envies the unconscious privilege displayed by Joana, with her wealthy and liberal parents.

It may be Daniel Simitan’s soft, lovable score or the pleasing symmetries found in Leonardo Feliciano’s warm-toned camerawork, but there’s a certain coziness to “Mars One” that can spin into an indie formula. -dramedy, especially in the later stages. We just know, for example, that Wellington’s pride in his clear four-year AA medal probably comes before a fall, just as it smacks of scriptwriting artifice that a Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture at which Deivinho longs to attend is to take place on the same day he is finally offered a life-changing football team tryout. Martins opts for a multi-perspective romance sprawl, but it can sometimes become unwittingly soapy, especially when it lands on close-ups of dismayed Tércia that are in a very different register from the restrained style of performance elsewhere.

And the familiarity of some of the arcs understates the more insightful and personal observations (the film is partly informed by Martins’ own experiences), such as Tércia’s increasingly paranoid and superstitious belief that she brings misfortune to everyone around her, a promising story that is described but not explored. Likewise, little Deivinho’s fascination with astronautics is underpowered, especially when compared to Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh’s ostensibly similar (though more magical-realistic) 2020 title, “Gagarine”, which also had the space exploration for all the lofty dreams that the poor and marginalized are told they cannot dream.

Here, the distant Red Planet becomes an overly melancholic metaphor for escape, when the injustices and deprivations the family yearns to flee have entirely earthly causes and solutions (suggested by this Election Day prologue). But to really delve into those would require a degree of topical ferocity and anger that this kind-hearted, upbeat, oddly old-fashioned movie doesn’t address, for better or worse. Depending on your state of mind, it can be touchingly idealistic or soap opera so unrealistic that, despite all the setbacks they’ve faced, these four lovable activists can find common ground and shared hope, in their backyard. near the gutters, looking up to Mars.

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