Reviewed for Film Factual by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Gabriel Martins
Writer: Gabriel Martins
Cast: Carlos Francisco, Camilla Damião, Ana Hilãrio, Cícero Lucas, Ana Hilãrio, Russo Apr
Screened at: TheWrap Screenings series online, LA, 12/7/22
Opens: January 5th, 2023
It’s easy to imagine that things must be better somewhere else. Those who are struggling or find themselves unhappy in their lives can dream of the possibilities offered up by a new relationship, a new career, a new place, or even a new planet. Yet there’s often enough that already exists when everything is truly considered, and aspiring for major changes won’t actually bring the satisfaction and warmth they may suggest. Mars One showcases four members of one family who all struggle to make sense of where their lives are.
Wellington (Carlos Francisco) works hard keeping up the pool of a wealthy woman who often asks him to do her small favors around her home, and he invests all his remaining energy in coaching his son Deivinho (Cícero Lucas) to be a soccer player, though the child would actually prefer to be an astronaut and go on a mission to colonize Mars. Deivinho’s older sister Eunice (Camilla Damião) meets Joana (Ana Hilãrio) and begins a relationship, which leads to the two women looking for an apartment together. The family matriarch, Tercia (Rejane Faria), is the victim of a prank that causes her to believe that she can only bring bad things upon those around her.
Mars One is Brazil’s official Oscar submission for Best International Film and deals also with the cultural landscape of the country, with the family of Black protagonists acclimating to the election of a far-right president who certainly does not have their best interests at heart. Each of the four family members engages with that truth in a different way, recognizing the realities that exist but also latching on to something else, and it’s compelling to see those storylines intersect at the dinner table and in other spaces.
This film’s title obviously leans towards the interests of one of its protagonists more than the other, indicating that his dreams may be most out of reach but that they also offer the best chance to take him to somewhere entirely new. The need for an overhaul of civilization is certainly an idea that has merit, and worsening conditions on this planet might indeed eventually lead to extraterrestrial colonization efforts. Deivinho is a much more serious version of the idealistic astronaut-in-training in another film with a similar premise that couldn’t be more different from this year, the Tribeca entry Space Oddity.
There is a great deal of social commentary to be found in all of these storylines, starting with the access that Wellington has through his work to a megastar who could enable his hopes for Deivinho’s bright future to come true by securing the right connection. While Deivinho wishes he could spend all his time attending Neil deGrasse Tyson lectures, he is relegated to his bedroom and to whatever he can find on his computer. Eunice is studying to become a lawyer and has a better sense of what the world looks like, but she also knows that even moving out – or just coming out – will be an ordeal with her parents. And Tercia is paralyzed by superstition after the trauma of enduring what she thought was a violent incident and turned out to be nothing more than a camera-captured stunt.
All four primary performers turn in excellent work in this subtle, subdued drama which has just as much to do with these family members’ individual struggles as it does their cohesive existence as one unit. The characters feel rich and developed, and this story is one that could likely take place anywhere given the right political and socioeconomic factors. This film draws out involving arcs from four people who live in the same place yet engage with their surroundings in remarkably diverse and interesting ways.
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+