Karim Aïnouz’s Futuro Beach is a film that searches for beauty amid the crisis of life. Drilling down on that outline, it’s a film about life cycles; the foundation of its narrative, loose and shapeless though it may be, rests on the human connections made and conflicts waged in the wake of a single death. Aïnouz explores what good can come out of bad and vice versa by treating tragedy as a stone hurled at the surface of a lake. Everything that happens afterward is a ripple effect of mortality – budding romance, fractured relationships, sibling ennui, and the isolation of cultural displacement. If there’s any specific throughline connecting all of Aïnouz’s themes together, it’s the notion that one ending can lead into numerous other beginnings.
Futuro Beach begins as lifeguard Donato (Wagner Moura) tries and fails to save a drowning man in the perilous waves of Fortaleza’s Praia do Futuro. The man happens to be visiting from Germany, and not alone; he made the sojourn with his friend, Konrad (Clemens Shick), who is metaphorically up a creek as a result of the accident. The two men meet to discuss Konrad’s options and subsequently fall for each other, leading them around Brazil and eventually overseas, half a world away from Donato’s family, including his little brother Ayrton, as well as any decent shorelines. Aïnouz draws their courtship out over years, letting it unfold like a sprawling and keenly felt novel.
There’s more to the film than that, of course, but Futuro Beach is so general in its interests and boasts such an aimless plot that summarizing it succinctly is nearly impossible. Most of the drama occurs between Donato and Konrad as they embark on their aggressively passionate love affair; eventually, nearly a decade passes and Ayrton (Jesuíta Barbosa) arrives in Berlin to settle long-nursed grudges with his derelict brother. His reemergence in Donato’s life gives Futuro Beach a bit of a bump in energy and forces Aïnouz to walk a tightrope between what is said and what is left unsaid. The film conveys a great deal of explicit detail without putting that detail into words, which may be its greatest strength.
The amount of “stuff” that can be read out of Futuro Beach makes the film sound perhaps a bit cacophonous. Truthfully, Aïnouz does stuff his picture to the brim, but the problems dogging his work have little and less to do with how busy it is; pacing is a difficulty, and the impacts that pacing has on the Brazilian director’s story even more so. Futuro Beach is a deliberate movie, which isn’t strictly a bad thing – the purpose suits Aïnouz’s wandering yarn nicely, whether it’s lazing around the beaches of his homeland or drifting through sparse urban streets. But like its characters, this is a movie let adrift and which doesn’t quite articulate the themes Aïnouz grapples with as adroitly as he might have liked. He lingers too long in dance halls, on late night motorcycle rides, on the dangerously alluring lapping waters of coastal Fortaleza. The images he and cinematographer Ali Olcay Gözkaya come up with are staggeringly gorgeous, but there’s ultimately a disconnect between what we see and what the film hopes to say.
2.5 stars out of 4
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