Review: Tropic

Written and directed by Edouard Salier, co-written by Mauricio Carrasco, year 2041, France, two trained astronaut twins go through a lot when one of them is contaminated with a mysterious residue from space. Starring: Pablo Cobo, Louis Peres, Marta Nieto and Marvin Dubart.

The first thing that hits you right in the face with Tropicis the absolutely stunning cinematography from Mathieu Plainfossé. It’s incredibly lush in its colouring, it embraces a natural darkness with touches of light that’s simply so satisfying to watch. Added with Edouard Salier’s direction, aesthetically it’s fantastic all the way through, it immediately builds that feeling of mystery before its extra-terrestrial element even appears. Part of that is there’s a huge sincerity and depth to the way that it presents itself. It also chooses to only have minimal touches to create that futuristic setting which was a graceful and effective choice.

However, the story both in pacing and progression doesn’t feel as consistent. There’s a great foundation in the brotherhood between Lazaro (Pablo Cobo) and Tristan (Louis Peres), as well as the competitive nature of their training. It then delves into quite classic themes, with one of them becoming injured and no longer able to move forward while the other continues to succeed. Creating a completely shifting dynamic for their entire family and new psychology to explore. Unfortunately, it’s something that’s been portrayed a lot in cinema so while the setting and style may be unique, the story feels extremely familiar. There aren’t enough layers or avenues to set it apart from the crowd and it ends up feeling a touch too simple, as though it had the time to explore further but kept fairly contained. It’s highlighted more when it goes for one majorly intense, dramatic moment in its latter scenes which feels contrary to the rest of the tone and slightly out of the blue.

The sci-fi style element to Tropic is extremely played down, realistically it’s almost out of place because what the film creates is more akin to a family drama. Particularly in the quality and depth of its lead performances from Pablo Cobo and Louis Peres, they both have an imposing presence. Cobo’s is very strong throughout, creating a masculine perspective on mental struggle, an unusual form of grief and responsibility. With the massive change to Tristan as the story moves forward, Louis Peres’ performance has to shift to something much more inward and quiet. It’s still well done but is rather limiting, although the two do share an intensely emotional moment as the film comes to a close. Marta Nieto adds in another emotional element throughout and creates a sweet bond between mother and sons.

Tropic is beautifully and hauntingly shot, bringing a darkness gives its nature a dangerous edge. There’s a superb tension and atmosphere but the story simply isn’t bringing enough to the table to elevate it further. Which is particularly a shame given that it’s shot so well and filled with such great performances. If it had a more unique element to its plot or took a few risks, it could have been something special, that would pair well with films like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Reviewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2023

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