“Did you know that the sun we see now is the sun of the past? In writer-director Gabriel Martin’s sensitive and heartfelt family drama Marte uh (march one), teenage Deivinho (Cícero Lucas) makes this corny observation to two friends who are more interested in playing chicken than indulging in Devinho’s closed obsession with astrophysics. It’s one of many fervent thoughts that represent Deivinho’s setting: Brazil on the night of Jair Bolsnaro’s presidential victory and subsequent installation. Audiences already know that things are about to get materially worse for a working-class family like Deivinho’s, and while the film is grounded in the relatively recent reality of 2018, watching their bad luck unfold sometimes feels like to a prophetic dream.
Joining Deivinho as the center of the film are his nearly college-educated sister Eunice (Camilla Damião), janitor father Wellington (Carlos Francisco), and part-time housekeeper mother Tércia (Rejane Faria). The quartet is the main solar system in the film, and Martin does an impressive job of fully developing each character so that the closeness of their conflicts and their resolutions all feel integral and deserved.
A promising young soccer player, Deivinho hides his true love of space and his desire to board the 2030 mission to colonize Mars from his family, unsure how to approach his soccer-loving father with his change of plans. career. Eunice, hiding her burgeoning lesbian identity from herself and her new girlfriend Joana (Ana Hilãrio), longs for a space of her own, a space in which she won’t end up caring for the men in her life. Tércia, whom Eunice considers too soft with her husband and son, struggles to overcome insomnia and a series of traumatic coincidences that convince her that she is bringing her own bad luck. Wellington, the most stubbornly ignorant of the central players, is a four-year-sober alcoholic who refuses to acknowledge his own exploitation at the hands of his wealthy bosses, instead awaiting his son’s eventual rise to football stardom as a way to escape. raising the whole family.
It’s a pleasure to spend time with each character individually, both based on their writing and performance. Through Martin’s patient shooting length, immersive instincts, and expressionistic lighting, viewers can experience each family member’s often reserved and always naturalistic reactions as if from a fully formed person that we’ve known for far longer than the generous 115-minute runtime. The viewer is allowed to experience the daily trials that the rest of the family cannot, bestowing benevolence and grace on each character’s flawed attempts to love each other while standing tall. Even if we don’t agree with each character’s choices, Martins provides the ability to really listen and understand what they’re saying with or without saying a word.
The relationship between Eunice and Deivinho is one of the most moving aspects of a film, undoubtedly a truthful emotional connection. Their shared exit scene is laid back but sentimental, driven by a recognizable anxiety that those they love most won’t be able to handle the person they become. Fortunately, the scene is a sigh of relief so early in the film that it assures the strength of their bond and the fierce determination that Eunice particularly possesses when it comes to protecting her little brother’s future.
Lucas and Damãio’s chemistry is winning, charming and, above all, utterly believable, just like Francisco and Faria’s. As traditional and stifling as Wellington’s bulldozing attitude may be, Tércia defies him, pushing the well-being of their children above all else. The couple feels cared for and loving even in their difficult times, which most often come when they struggle with the impossible: to live without a financial safety net. Even when things get worse, as they often do, and people are selfish, as they often are, the family’s fate never seems melodramatically sealed. This is not poverty porn; on the contrary, he is honest and even quite optimistic about the ability to find a way to find a way forward.
A sweet and unexpected example of this comes from the formation of the relationship between Joana and Eunice. It is not a relationship that is guaranteed to last; their cultural and class differences are evident from the moment they consider moving in together, and even more glaring when Eunice meets Joana’s parents. However, Joana provides a sense of support and empowerment that Eunice needs to be honest with her parents, and the way Wellington and Tércia examine each other to commit to loving their daughter is humbling. Joana and Eunice’s relationship may not be the film’s singular focus, but it is a meaningful, moving, and often refreshing addition to the family dynamic.
It’s treacherously hopeful for the premiere Marte uh in a year that Bolsnaro is a candidate for re-election. By turns witty and grounded, one might hope the film teaches empathy to those who need it most, but in all honesty, it’s less about breaking a hardened heart and more about reassuring those who must carry on. Insightful, kind and exceptionally well-acted, Marte uh reminds his characters that they will find what they need if they keep looking.
Director: Gabriel Martins
Writer: Gabriel Martins
Stars: Rejane Faria, Carlos Francisco, Camilla Damiao, Cicero Lucas
Release date: January 20, 2022 (Sundance)
Shayna Maci Warner (@bernieteeters) is a Brooklyn-based film programmer, curator, and GLAAD-awarded queer critic. Their words about feelings and queer films appear in Autostraddle, The movie scene and Movie credit, among others, and they write an exciting newsletter about girls and gays who make movies worth watching. You can invoke him in yodeling”Desert Hearts has been stolen!” into the sunset.