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★★★☆☆

Try as she might to refute any suggestions of prophecy, Iuli Gerbase’s The Pink Cloud will strike very close to the bone for audiences everywhere in early 2021. The young filmmaker’s debut is a dreamy, claustrophobic vision of modern life under strict, restrictive circumstances beyond its characters’ control. Sound familiar?

Premiering at Sundance in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, though initial intertitles explain that The Pink Cloud was written in 2017 and filmed two years later, the coincidental resemblance it bears to what has happened since is quite extraordinary. It is nonetheless, judged entirely on its own merits – inasmuch as that is possible, an impressive, thought-provoking first feature from the Brazilian director. A critique of the extent to which contemporary society takes its daily existence, and in turn those close to us, for granted, it explores how a jolt to the everyday can provoke sincere introspection and reflection on future priorities.

The thematic issues, which grow in existential nature throughout, most assuredly strike a chord. We open on a wide city skyscape where in time to composer Caio Amon’s shrill, competing wind instruments, fluffy pink clouds appear. Another hovers low over water and a young dog walker investigates, swiftly falling to the ground. No explanation is proffered, but when a siren awakes Giovana (Renata de Lélis) and Yago (Eduardo Mendonça) from their post-one-night stand slumbers, they quickly hide indoors and close all windows and doors.

What is causing this? How long will it last? Again, the questions are all too familiar, and hasty phone calls to check on family and friends reveal that some have been stuck in shops, at others’ houses, at home alone. One of whom is Giovana’s friend Sara (Kaya Rodriguez). Laptop screen exchanges with her over the course of the film reveal most acutely the pain of loneliness, of solitary isolation, and its potentially devastating effects. Increasingly infrequent video calls to his father weigh heavily on Yago, unable to assist with his diminishing faculties and ability to recall or comprehend what is happening around him.

Though in terms of its location The Pink Cloud is limited to a single space and the screens of mobile phones and computers, Gerbase, who scripted as well as directed her debut project, regularly jumps ahead years to stretch narrative possibility from a temporal standpoint. Needless to say, there are a number of surprises, challenges and near-breaking points along the way. Though the pacing does lag a little in places, the intermittent fast forwards do work well. Interestingly, aside from early newscasts showing deserted city streets around the world, Gerbase chooses not to dig into the meteorological phenomenon causing this lockdown.

Just as the pretty, yet deadly cloud hangs in the air outside the apartment, so does the reasons for it being there. A soft pink hew, which bathes the apartment in its ominous light each day, reinforces its looming ever-presence. But it is how Yago and Giovana react to their enforced circumstances, how they deal with being thrust together and what sacrifices they are each willing to make to adapt, to survive the world being turned upside down that counts. Rooted in the mundane, but told with an imaginative vision, flair and real composure, The Pink Cloud announces Iuli Gerbase as a new creative talent and filmmaker to watch out for.

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival takes place between the 28 January to 3 February. You can follow CineVue’s coverage here.

Matthew Anderson | @MattAndo63