If every cloud has a silver lining, then Iuli Gerbase’s debut feature may be the shot in the arm we all need to put the current pandemic into perspective. Imagine the country going into lockdown while you’re in the middle of a one-night stand. That’s exactly what happens to Giovana (Renata de Lélis) who is now stuck with Yago (Eduardo Mendonça) thanks to the toxic mass of condensed water vapor floating outside the apartment. “The Pink Cloud” doesn’t offer hope but it has the same effect as watching the old Jerry Springer show, suddenly you realize life could be worse.

A title card preceding the opening credits states, “This film was written in 2017 and shot in 2019. Any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.” What are the odds? While there is no escaping a comparison to the current pandemic, the worldwide plight is just the backdrop for Gerbase’s psychological drama. The film’s focus is on the developing relationship between Giovana and Yugo as days turn into months which turn into years. I would imagine it’s like an arranged marriage minus the actual nuptials and screening process as the two strangers must learn to love each other.

Gerbase was inspired by Luis Buñuel’s 1962 film “The Exterminating Angel” with its theme of isolation and the effect it has on people. The hows and whys of their predicament are inconsequential as are the details surrounding the pink cloud. We know that it can descend from above, it moves like a fog, it can’t seep through window or door cracks, and it can kill you in ten seconds. If you remain indoors, you’re safe. The vagueness of the toxic menace would be an issue in a typical sci-fi yarn but with the focus on the characters, it’s not a stumbling block.

In the beginning, it’s all about sex. That wears off fast and after months with no end in sight for the lockdown, the two realize they are in it for the long haul. As they begin to exchange their outlooks on life it becomes evident that the two want different things. Yugo wants kids, Giovana never planned to have any. As far as work is concerned, he’s a chiropractor without clients (thanks to the cloud) but Giovana is a web designer so working from home becomes the new norm. Sound familiar? She becomes the breadwinner while Yugo explores other options.

Eventually, a kid comes into the picture as Giovana gives in to Yugo’s desire for children. They deliver a son with the help of an online midwife and the dynamic in the relationship changes once again. Yugo becomes a responsible parent while Giovana, feeling stir crazy, becomes addicted to her VR headset imaging life at the beach even going as far as incorporating real sand in the apartment and a small blow-up pool (food and supplies are delivered via drone and dropped through a tube connected to the window).

In this brave new world, some people view the pink cloud as a blessing. Crime is nonexistent and isolation gives people the chance to connect on a deeper level. Giovana doesn’t see it that way. She eventually begins to despise Yugo and asks for a separation. They agree to live on different floors of the two-story apartment (he stays upstairs) while agreeing to joint custody of their son. The film becomes a fascinating human experiment that causes the viewer to reassess their outlook on the current pandemic we are all living with. Suddenly life isn’t so bad. The performances by Lélis and Mendonça are so natural and compelling that the viewer is completely engrossed.

“The Pink Cloud” could be thought of as an allegory for COVID-19. Certainly, there are many similarities including breakups during isolation. The film however also highlights the strain put on Giovana being the only female in the three-person dynamic. She seems to be making all the sacrifices including the concession to have children. It’s an impressive debut by Iuli Gerbase who came up with the idea two years before COVID-19. She can now add prophet to her resume next to writer and director. Thank goodness she didn’t come up with the idea for “Soylent Green.”

(3 stars)

Now showing at the Angelika Film Center (Dallas)

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Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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