When you need to feel good about the future — whether you need to look up or up, at the person you’re with or within yourself — Brazilian family drama Mars One has a character with whom They sympathize and you can stand up for if they were your own flesh and blood.
Writer-director Gabriel Martins’ second feature film is a big, beating heart of a film whose working-class black nerds of four exhibit an attitude of pursuing their own dreams and those of others that stands in stark contrast to what is divisive, extreme Right is the election victory of the extremist Jair Bolsonaro was a harbinger. This political news dictates the time frame in the opening moments, almost like a courage Martins braved himself to convincingly tell an uplifting story about people for whom struggle is built into every day and politics is rarely the answer.
In the painterly warmth of his endeavour, he manages to ignore without condescension or pathos, but also without ignoring the realities of daily life or the psychology of close-knit families in strained relationships. The sound of the Bolsonaro election, for example, comes as we watch a boy named Deivinho (Cícero Lucas) staring up at the night sky, his composure letting us know that optimism and promise will be the engines of this film, not despair.
Smart, quiet Deivinho subconsciously smiles at a volcano demonstration in class and wants to be an astrophysicist, particularly to be part of a program that will one day colonize Mars. However, the only goals his sports-loving father Wellington (Carlos Francisco) can see are those his son scores on the soccer field. Wellington, who has been a sober caretaker at a high-rise condominium for four years, is convinced Deivinho, who plays for big-league club Cruzeiro, is just a tryout away. (This proud father is even encouraged in this quest by one of his workplace’s notable residents: Argentinian ex-footballer Juan Pablo Sorín in a touchingly spirited cameo.)
Similarly concerned about abandoning her parents is Deivinho’s thoughtful, thoughtful older sister, Eunice (Camilla Damião), who wants to move out and into an apartment with her new friend Joana (Ana Hilário). Leaving home is a huge blow to the united household, even without worrying about how their sexuality is accepted. But mother Tercia (an expressive Rejane Faria), who works as a cleaning lady, is in her own state of apprehension, almost a kind of reverse hope – after her nerves were shattered by a gruesome reality TV prank involving a fake terrorist explosion, she has come believing that she could be a curse on her loved ones.
In its narrative simplicity, “Mars One” can at times look like a solidly planned episode of heartbreaking family television – save for a moment of joyful eroticism between Eunice and Joana and a plot invention for Deivinho that you’ll see a mile away. But wrapped in the admiring attention of Martins’ direction, which foregrounds the strikingly textured, portrait-like cinematography of Leonardo Feliciano – who respects the demonstrative luminosity of light on individual skin tones as few DPs do these days – it plays so soulfully , not schematic.
In other words, don’t expect a bit of naturalistic grit here, or the stuff that builds to a climactic scream of why-we-fear — Martins is more interested in the emotional currents when ordinary, caring people allow themselves hope. He’d rather wallow in the quiet humanity of siblings seeing each other, or the atmosphere of firm belief at an AA meeting or act of kindness, than wallow in the lows of an already down-to-earth life.
And some not-great things happen in Mars One. And there is agony. But there are also the good things being done in response that keep families like this fighting on. For this reason, Martins likes to set his characters against the horizon, like figures of inherent greatness and strength who deserve as much attention as the mysterious planet a child gazes at through a telescope.
In Portuguese with English subtitles
Rated: TV-MA, for Speech, Nudity, Smoking
Duration: 1 hour 55 minutes
To play: Available January 5 on Netflix
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2023-01-05/mars-one-review-brazilian-drama “Mars One” review: Brazilian family drama gives hope