Sometimes, art imitates life, and sometimes, life imitates art. It’s difficult to know what exactly writer-director Iuli Gerbase was thinking or feeling when everything came crashing down shortly after she finished filming her first feature film, The Pink Cloud, but it’s impossible to watch this chamber drama-thriller and not mull about the world as it is today. Though it wasn’t deliberate, Gerbase arguably made the defining film of 2020 in the years prior, and that is either its greatest or weakest selling point. One can’t help but wonder where her head was during all this.
As the opening title card and the film’s tagline dutifully note, any coincidences between this refrained narrative and our COVID-ridden timeline are purely coincidental. Yet, this intuitive, eerily precedent debut is only made stronger by the ways in which it connects to our current or recent times. Nevertheless, even outside (or, err, inside) of the ways that The Pink Cloud is attuned with the pandemic, the impressive film would stand out on its own, particularly as it reflects the realities of a murky world that’s continually unknowable and only increasingly unlivable.
Though often bleak in its outlook, The Pink Cloud receives a great wealth of humanity, depth, and nuance through its intelligent direction and outstanding lead performances from Renata de Lelis and Eduardo Mendonca, capturing stark insights about repressed human behavior and our inability to make peace with a restless reality, which reflect well on the first-time filmmaker’s perceptive vision. Certainly, one hopes that her next movie doesn’t foretell the same unseen terror, for all of our sake, but this is a novice storyteller who is well worth keeping an eye on — regardless of how well she had her finger on the pulse of our depressingly isolated way of living.
During a casual night out, Giovana (de Lelis) and Yago (Mendonca) inexplicably find themselves locked in the same house together when it’s discovered that a foreboding pink cloud looms across the sky and kills anyone who comes across its path in a matter of 10 seconds. Everyone is stuck in lockdown, unable to connect to the outside world — outside of their phones and other screens, of course.
In the process, Giovana and Yago form a rather unconventional meet-cute, as they develop a flirty, fun-loving relationship of sorts. They’re not quite roommates, and they’re not lovers…in the strictest sense. But as the days inscrutably pass, the lines blur, much like the normal conventions of time, and it’s not long before their lives find some sort of odd structure when their housed-in situation becomes the new norm. Falling in and out of love is difficult under the most casual of circumstances. But when you’re trapped in a bubble, it’s only a matter of time —whatever that might be in a world that’s stopping and starting at once—before it’s gonna pop.
In some respects, The Pink Cloud is therapeutic. It allows audiences to see a vision of the world that’s similar to the ones we’ve been forced to live and it gives them some understanding or perspective of what it means to live in a time where nothing makes sense and nobody knows what we’re supposed to do. It’s easier to value a movie like this one compared to, say, Don’t Look Up, where the drama isn’t interesting in pointing figures so much as it’s aiming to explore the fragile mindsets of its echo chamber characters and how the haunting nature of an outside world that continues to be ever unreachable causes the isolated to be driven unstable.
Yet, in other respects, it’s easy to sympathize with the folks who feel that a movie like this isn’t one that gives ample reflection. It’s so dour and so pessimistic that it won’t bring happiness to the folks who are already suffering enough, and they can’t find anything comforting about a film that reminds them so much about the world we live in today that even the premise sparks hives.
Neither perspective is necessarily wrong or right. But for me, at least, I ultimately side with the former. As we continue to live in a world that rattles indelicately with the ramifications of COVID, especially in the United States, I found it illuminating to see a movie that so delicately captures the melancholic feelings of being alive at a time where the future is intangible and the past is a hazy fog, leaving one in a wandering daze and unable to see what it means to be truly present.
While this wasn’t the intent, I believe that The Pink Cloud will ultimately achieve more with this thoughtful analysis than many COVID-inspired movies will. Compare this film to, say, the awful Locked Down and it’s apparent that most movies that directly try to comment on these times are doomed to fail. Art is meant to give us perspective, to give us insight into the cloudy feelings that we cannot place, or help us make peace with the realities that don’t make sense at the moment. Under that lens, The Pink Cloud is a highly commendable success, though it’s also not faultless.
As the movie becomes less mood-driven and more narratively focused, The Pink Cloud makes a few expected choices that feel a little too expected. As it plays out in some predictable ways, it’s hard not to long for the subtle graces of the movie’s confident first half. Nevertheless, as the film touches on topics that feel even more relevant and true during these final moments, it’s fair to wonder if this new movie will continue to resonate more as more time passes — enigmatically or otherwise.
It’s hard to say, of course. Certainly, the filmmakers probably have no idea what to make of The Pink Cloud’s connections to the now, and how it became one of the most relevant films of today. In any case, especially on its technical prowess and its sharp commentary, it’s easy to see how The Pink Cloud is a stunning achievement in its own right, commendably telling its refined story with skilled precision and thoughtful care. The way that it makes its single location visually rich, and how it retains a radiating allure, even when it mirrors the dreaded terror and mundanity of its disillusioned homebound characters, is constantly impressive. It showcases a new director who is present and vital in ways that she likely never expected, and hopefully, that remains true as we slowly creak forward into an uncertain future.
The Pink Cloud is now playing in limited release. Watch the trailer here.