It must be a joke.
Despite bowing a year into the COVID pandemic, Iuli Gerbase‘s A Nuvem Rosa [The Pink Cloud] was shot two years prior and written two before that. It’s a point of clarification made at the start of the film due to how familiar its themes and events prove when placed in context with our current reality. It’s necessary too so audiences can’t pretend that what’s happening wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Whether a deadly virus or, in this case, a mysterious pink cloud that kills anyone who encounters it for ten seconds, mankind will always act the same. We’ll embrace denial with the promise of things going back to normal soon. We’ll struggle psychologically as the world we’ve known officially disappears. And we will inevitably conflate our destruction with salvation.
The years-long progression from points A to B is supplied by two thirty-somethings who met the night before everything went awry. Giovana (Renata de Lélis) and Yago (Eduardo Mendonça) got drunk and high at a party before ending up at the empty house of her relative. They wake up to the sound of their phones buzzing and an alarm horn blaring with a fear-inducing declaration to go inside and lock every window. Since some citizens become stranded as a result—Giovana’s friend Sara (Kaya Rodrigues) is alone due to her husband getting caught in the local bakery running errands while Yago’s father (Girley Paes) is left at home to lockdown with his nurse Diego as dementia slowly takes control—one might even argue these two strangers are lucky.
They have a decent amount of food to keep them alive until the government figures out a solution (a tube system that seals onto a window of every home to distribute goods via drones without anyone having to leave the confines of their prisons). They have internet and power to stay in touch with family (Giovana’s sister Júlia, played by Helena Becker, is trapped at a friend’s house due to a sleepover). And they have each other, for better or worse. Will they coexist as roommates? Will their relationship blossom into something more due to proximity? Depending on how long this quarantine lasts, they might even find themselves starting a family and perhaps even dissolving it too considering “a lack of options” isn’t the best foundation for love.
It plays like a mix of Extraterrestre with its small-scale relationship drama against a high concept apocalyptic backdrop and Aniara with its claustrophobic mental devolution from hope to despair. We move from the honeymoon phase of Giovana and Yago’s affair to a subsequent period demanding tough conversations about the future. They have fun and may even fall in love before futility and monotony risks sanity to the point of separation—or the closest approximation to separation when you literally cannot leave a shared space without dying. He begins to accept that which he can control through a new religion steeped in respect for the cloud’s gifts. She becomes lost in that which she can’t control, clinging to her only escape: a virtual reality simulation depicting an impossible life.
Gerbase has a keen sense for transition. He utilizes visual cues (mostly as a result of a growing child named Lino) to help mark the passage of time without needing concrete numbers. Those coupled with the duo’s ever-changing emotional states of being (love, hate, “affairs” via internet or window-to-window connections, religious mantras, psychotic breaks, etc.) keep things fresh considering we’re stuck in this single locale with them. Drama builds from their frustrations and longing as well as external developments beyond their control such as Júlia hitting puberty or Rui gradually losing his grip on reality. And all the while nothing changes. No solutions to go outside with masks or suits arise. Lockdown becomes life as corporations monetize depression. Everyone must therefore accept that fate with surrender or death.
That’s not an easy choice to experience—especially not if you find yourself weighing those same options. It’s another reason why the film has that disclaimer at the top to distance itself from COVID and maintain its grasp on fiction. Because it’s one thing to contemplate what you might do if ever encountering such an impossible decision and another to be contemplating it while watching characters live out the same. Gerbase touches on a lot of legitimate themes. Is it responsible to bring new life into this new world? Is it healthy to keep worrying about people you’ll never see in the flesh again? He lets his characters consider them and he provides their answers to push his narrative forward rather than presume definitive proof of their merit.
You should definitely ensure that you’re in the correct headspace before watching since certain moments will prove triggering to those who aren’t. And even if you are, know that Gerbase and company are presenting things with a level of authenticity that demands introspection. This isn’t a satire. These are people like you and me being pushed to their breaking points. Some will bury their anger and deal with this new reality while others will stoke it to try and reclaim control if only through screaming as a means of feeling something again. Neither choice is right. You either relinquish your past to help a new generation or reject that future to maintain some semblance of who you were no matter the cost. In the end, no one wins.