This Mars One review contains very mild spoilers.
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Tércia believes she is cursed. Jair Bolsonaro has just been elected and as the mother of a lower-middle class Black family in Brazil this would be bad enough. But after an absurd and traumatic experience she’s left even more shaken. All of a sudden bad things big and small seem to happen all around her.
Tércia (Rejane Faria) is one of four protagonists in writer/director Gabriel Martins’ stunning family drama Mars One. There’s Tércia’s husband Wellington (Carlos Francisco), four years sober and soccer-obsessed. Their son, Deivinho (Cícero Lucas), who is fulfilling his dad’s soccer ambitions while secretly dreaming of astrophysics. And then their daughter Eunice (Camilla Souza), a college student ready to leave home and even more ready to explore her sexuality.
The film is about the entire family — spending a near equal amount of time with each of them. But it never feels disjointed or crowded because their stories matter so much to one another and therefore matter to us. It’s because we spend so much time with Tércia and Wellington and Deivinho that Eunice’s story is able to accomplish something I’ve rarely if ever seen. Movies have often centered straight people’s reaction to their queer family member — this film lets us know the straight family intimately then centers the queer person’s experience of herself.
There’s a specificity to Eunice’s interactions with her family that reveal the stakes of their support. There’s an equal specificity in the love story with her girlfriend Jo. Their hotter than cute meet cute at a club, their dinner with Jo’s wealthy family, the way they love each other in the sort of impassioned yet insufficient way college students love. It all just feels so real. And it emphasizes that while Eunice’s relationship with her family is important, her relationship with Jo is too.
The conflict for Eunice becomes less that she’s gay and more that she wants to move out of her family’s home. The film accomplishes the rare feat of acknowledging the realities of heteronormativity while not slipping into painful clichés. Every member of Eunice’s family has a different reaction to her queerness, each feeling true to straight family while still being tender.
While all the relationships in the film are well-drawn, it’s the dynamic between Eunice and Deivinho that touched me the most. While Tércia is focused on necessities and Wellington is obsessed with his own dreams for his children, Eunice and Deivinho understand each other’s desires to make their own lives. Camilla Souza’s performance is excellent throughout the film but her scenes with Cícero Lucas are especially strong. Eunice is such a wonderful big sister and their moments together are sentimental without being cloying.
The whole film could be described that way. This is a film filled with struggle that never feels maudlin, hope that never feels forced.
Tércia is worried that she’s cursed. But what the film illustrates is how for some people in certain societies, the system is the curse. The world at large has the same casual cruelty as those who cause Tércia’s initial trauma. No matter how hard this family works, no matter how they budget, there will always be “bad luck” ready to ruin their plans.
But they have each other. And Eunice has Jo. And they have the day they’re living and the day to come.
This film doesn’t provide a hope that downplays the realities of Bolsonaro’s Brazil, of a country, like so many of our countries, defined by deep inequalities. It just shows all the love, all the beauty, all the possibility, that can still exist within those limitations. It’s an argument against those limitations. It’s a portrait of a family that deserves more than the Earth, more than this world.