Futuro Beach Review

When a film that deals primarily with loss and abandonment can leave you with hairs prickling the back of your neck and a sense of feeling happy to be alive, you know you’ve stumbled across a gem.

Multi-award-winning director Karim Aïnouz skilfully juxtaposes two moodily characterful landscapes in this electric, Brazilian-German story about three men and how the fierceness of their love influences, destroys and touches each others’ lives, told in three chapters rather poetically entitled ‘The Drowner’s Embrace’, ‘A Hero Cut in Half’ and ‘A German-Speaking Ghost’.

Donato and Konrad meet for the first time in the throes of catastrophe:  Brazil-born and bred Donato (Wagner Moura) is a lifeguard on the savagely expansive Futuro Beach, living with his bursting-with-adoration kid brother, and no cares in the world.  His life transforms forever when he dives to rescue some swimmers:  as we plunge into a panic-fuelled, aquaphobia-inducing struggle with the current, we distinguish him rescuing German tourist Konrad (Clemens Schick) – but Konrad’s travelling companion is not so lucky, and his body is never recovered.  Shellshocked by the tragedy, the two men turn to each other for sex as a means of, initially, escaping the relentless needling of guilt – but this quickly develops into something far deeper and more all-consuming.  Before we know it,  Donato has moved to Germany to start a fresh life with the man he has fallen in love with, abandoning both the memories that haunt him but also his own family.  It’s an extreme culture shock captured piercingly by accomplished cinematography:  even the watery yellow sunlight straining through Berlin’s stark trees is a far more timid creature than its voracious relative of the Southern Hemisphere; and the new city life has a chilly, conservative atmosphere that makes their lovemaking seem furtive and illicit in the eternally bluish shadows of their apartment, compared to the celebratory, bronzed steaminess of their encounters in Brazil.

It’s a film that goes beyond a simple love story however, centring far more on the repercussions of Donato’s life choices:  by the final ‘chapter’, when the focus has shifted onto his younger brother Ayrton (who years later has come – symbolically of his matter-of-fact words as a child – to ‘rescue’ him), it transpires that Donato and Konrad are not even together any more, demonstrating how even running to the opposite end of the world cannot allow you to escape the grief of the past, etched like permanent marker into the timeline of your life story.  Ayrton (Jesuita Barbosa), who has been made reckless and bolshy from a lifetime spent riddled with hurt and anger nursed through to adulthood, bulldozes his way onto the scene and, by dredging up painful truths and forcing confrontation with his broken sibling, oddly brings the trio of characters together in a full circle.

Aïnouz’ creation concludes in a mirroring of the introduction, with a cross-country motorcycle ride, but where the opening saw two figures coursing down hot sand dunes, reckless and invincible, the lingering closing shot is measured and hypnotic, on a winding road in the twilight.  The sustained image draws reflection of a lifetime journey of experiences, of pain endured and survived; and as this gives way to David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ splashed victoriously over the closing credits, one can’t help but swallow a slight lump in the throat.

Vibrant and swift-flowing, Futuro Beach is a cinematic treat – well-shot, well-acted and well-told, it just gets it spot-on.  It embraces the homosexual element without feeling the need to highlight it – this is firmly a story about human beings and love, which hits the core of every gut emotion but without dragging us into misery, resulting in a surprisingly uplifting aftertaste.


Futuro Beach is in cinemas from 17th April 2015.

The BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival continues until Sunday 29th March.  Tickets are still available from www.bfi.org.uk/flare 


You can follow Saskia Bartlett on Twitter @saskia_bartlett


About The Author

Saskia is a young writer living in London. After graduating in Film Studies at The University of Kent, she completed an MA at Central School of Speech and Drama, where she developed a passion for writing and creating short films for herself and her fellow students to act in. When not immersed in scribbling ideas down, Saskia can be found partaking in crazy outdoor activities covered in as much mud as possible.

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