I’ve watched this movie last Sunday morning and haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since. I’ve read every single review on Letterboxd, looked up people’s reactions on it on Twitter, watched interviews I can’t even understand (most were done in Portuguese). I’ve even created a short Spotify playlist for it because it’s what I do when I can’t get something off my mind, but it’s still not enough. So here I am, finally properly writing about it, even though I haven’t blogged in a year.
Futuro Beach (Praia do Futuro) by Karim Aïnouz is a poignant and moving drama that explores the human emotion of fear and love at its core. It tells the story of Donato (played by the brilliant Wagner Moura, yes, the same actor who breathed life into Narcos’ Pablo Escobar), a lifeguard who forms a complicated relationship with a German ex-soldier-slash-biker named Konrad (Clemens Schick) after he rescues him from an undercurrent while losing the latter’s friend in the process.
***Warning: Spoiler alert***
This film is a poetic patchwork at its best. Aïnouz is a visual artist through and through, and this shows in his directorial choices for this film. At first, we get beautiful landscape shots of Brazil, bathed in warm sunlight in bright hues of blue. And then in the second act, this gets replaced by the subdued and bleak colors of Berlin. Aïnouz conveys his story more in moving images than in words; the dialogue is sparse in the entire duration of the film. This arguably creates gaps in the narrative and the audience is left wondering what is exactly happening, where is this film heading but maybe that is entirely the point: maybe we’re supposed to be left wondering. In a way, this technique became more interesting for me because of its unpredictability and I’ve become eager to see what’s going to happen next.
The film is quiet, stubbornly so, and there are several scenes where you, as the audience, will just find yourself waiting, observing. They are incredibly oblique. I personally loved these scenes, though, because while they are silent, they are also often the most intimate, the most genuine, and the most domestic interactions between the two main characters. I especially loved how these scenes were framed in medium close-up in one long, steady take. I once saw this Japanese film called Our Family (2014) that was framed in a similar fashion. When I asked the director what’s his reason behind this kind of framing, he said that it was done to make the audience feel like they’re just mere observers to a normal family going through their daily lives. I’d like to think Aïnouz thought the same with this film.
I seem to have a penchant for films that bank in on the simplicity and domesticity of life. Watching Futuro Beach for me was like watching an adult gay couple go through the motions of their daily lives as it spans over the timeline of a decade.
Wagner Moura is absolutely charming in this film (on top of being a total cutie). He shines as Donato (or Doni) who is inhibited by his fear — fear of death, fear of commitment, fear of change, fear of being alone — moves from the warm and sunny beaches of Brazil to the dark but liberal suburbs of Berlin in hopes of creating a new life with his lover, Konrad.
To be honest, I don’t think I would have loved Doni as much if not for Wagner’s portrayal, whom I have known first through his excellent performance in Narcos. Perhaps, what lures me in further to Doni is how soft, vulnerable, and tender he is. The whole can’t-figure-out-this-shit-but-still-risking-it-all storyline resonates deeply with me, haha. Maybe this is my Taurus and quarter-life crisis speaking, but as someone who’s not exactly comfortable with change, I really admire how Doni took that risk. His whole life is in Futuro Beach — it’s where his younger brother and his mother live with him. And yet he took that leap of faith by moving with Konrad, whose home is opposite of everything he’s used to. Berlin is dark, cold and enigmatic. He can’t speak the language. Throughout the second act, we see Doni constantly getting sick (perhaps because of his body not yet fully adapting to the unfamiliar weather) with a caring Konrad by his side.
Objectively speaking, the move may seem like a stupid idea but who am I to judge, when he’s been secretly fearing death every time he does his job and dives into the sea?
It’s not easy to move out of your comfort zone. It takes a lot of courage and faith to leave everything for the sake of a completely new life, where everything is uncertain. Doni realizes this soon when he experiences homesickness. He tells Konrad that he can’t live in a place without a beach, that he has his family and his job waiting for him back home. So he makes a decision, he packs his bags and books a flight to Brazil.
But in the end, he stays in Berlin.
Is it because of love? The thrill of starting from scratch? The liberation that Berlin provides to his gender identity? I don’t know. If there’s anything this film is good at, it is its refusal to spell out things for its viewers.
Ultimately, Doni’s past comes back to haunt him when he comes face-to-face with a grown-up Ayrton (Jesuíta Barbosa), the very same brother he abandoned around a decade ago. Doni learns the hard way that there’s only so much he can do to pretend like he’s gone and at the end of the day, he must confront the consequences of his actions.
Futuro Beach is a wonderful exploration of fear and the uncertainties of adulthood illustrated in a combination of both provoking and calming pictures. It’s the kind of film that thrives more on the mood rather than the narrative, the type that lingers on your skin long after you’ve finished it. I am particularly in love with Aïnouz’s use of the sea and its symbolism to several elements in the film, primarily on fear and love — how incredibly easy it is to fall in love and be swayed by its beauty but dive deeper than necessary and you might drown and vanish forever. The serenity and its power. How it gives both life and death.
I am afraid this film might have affected me more than necessary, but I guess it’s too late to say that now. I’ll be thinking about it more for a little while as I yearn further for Doni & Konrad’s story and mull over my own fears, on the question of when is it the right time to leave (if there ever is a right time), and if it’s really worth it.
For the meantime, please do give this film a try and tell me about it. It’s available on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.