For Iuli Gerbase’s debut feature, “The Pink Cloud,” the Brazilian writer-director decided to tell a lightly sci-fi-inflected story about a mysterious – and deadly – blush-colored fog that descends upon the globe. The extent of the phenomenon is unclear but seems to be worldwide based on glimpses of news reports. In Gerbase’s telling, the titular miasma kills anyone who comes in contact with it in about 10 seconds, leading to the imposition of a mandatory quarantine.
The vapor, whose origins and composition are left deliberately vague, is, for some reason – presumably necessitated by narrative convenience – unable to seep into homes as oxygen is via, say, air conditioning ducts and other openings. “Why doesn’t it pass through the gaps?” a character wonders, early on, as he and the killer gas face off through a pane of glass.
An excellent question, and one that’s reassuring to hear someone in the film articulate, even though Gerbase’s failure to answer it is annoying. What’s most intriguing about “The Pink Cloud,” whose premise plays out like a metaphor for COVID-19 and lockdown, is that Gerbase wrote it in 2017 and shot the film two years later, well before the current health crisis.
Ah well, never mind about details. Gerbase is more interested in the effect of isolation on relationships. In that regard, “The Pink Cloud” is prescient and mildly affecting, if also susceptible to the question: Is it too soon to be watching a pandemic allegory while we’re still living through a pandemic?
To be sure, the film includes some nods to world-building outside the claustrophobic home in which it is set, where a one-night stand leads to the sudden, awkwardly enforced togetherness of a young woman named Giovana (Renata de Lélis) and her nightclub pickup Yago (Eduardo Mendonça). For example: The government announces that food and other necessities will henceforth be delivered via drone and deposited into residences through a plastic sleeve attached to a hole cut in window glass.
As for who is manufacturing all these life-sustaining products – and shipping them from what Amazon-like distribution center – the film leaves all that to the imagination. Presumably, workers who were stranded at their workplaces when the cloud hit are still there punching the clock. (And maybe sleeping on empty warehouse shelves? Who knows?)
As far as commerce and money is concerned, Yago, a chiropractor, can’t ply his trade for obvious reasons. But Giovana, a self-employed web designer who works from home, turns into the breadwinner for two. Make that three. Giovana and Yago are soon in the family way in a story that covers many years a bit too breezily and many ups and downs in this couple’s growing – and entirely unexpected – family.
There is, however, an uncomfortable sense of verisimilitude to this parable of cabin fever and the emotional twists and turns that occur between its protagonists. Giovana becomes addicted to her virtual-reality headset, setting up a fake beach – with real sand – in the living room while Yago and their son, Lilo (played by several different child actors at various ages) become more complacent about their shared life in the bubble.
Lilo, of course, has never known anything else, so it’s easier on him. On us, the effect of watching “The Pink Cloud” may be different. It feels sharply, even painfully true, while also hazy and nonspecific. Its head is in the clouds while its feet are grounded in the very real catastrophe we are all currently enduring.
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