Wednesday, July 26, 2023

See You on Venus: Movie Review

A light-weight tragi-comedy fizzles out into a confused romantic drama.
A girl with a secret makes a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Spain. She also manages to convince an almost stranger recovering from a tragedy to join her. Mia (Virginia Gardner) can steal hearts from the beginning; she’s a kind-hearted, street-smart girl who loves photography and grew up in the foster system. It’s clear she’s seen things in her past but has found a way to continually embrace positivity.   2023

Directed by: Joaquin Llamas

Screenplay by: Victoria Vinuesa

Starring: Virginia Gardner, Alex Aiono

All of that shines through in the opening scenes. Mia is a strong character and easy to like. Her counterpart is Kyle (Alex Aiono). A boy she barely knows and meets while she’s out photographing a nature reserve and he’s about to commit suicide. Kyle is a very angry, very depressed young man who’s responsible for a car accident that killed one kid and seriously injured another. He has no intention of living with the guilt – by not living, period. This would be one dark and depressing movie if it wasn’t for Mia. As mentioned she has a way of turning trauma into optimism.

The beginning of the movie is surprisingly light and funny given that the film’s primary themes are death and suicide. There are indeed tonal issues that eventually arise since the film tries to continue with this lightweight, easy-going attitude but then decides to introduce yet another storyline dealing with death.

The heart of the movie is Mia and Kyle travelling throughout Spain looking for Mia’s birth mother whom they only know via a name on a birth certificate. It slows down considerably since most of this is done via montages. Mia and Kyle driving, Mia and Kyle grooving to the music, Mia and Kyle seeing the sights, and Mia crossing off another name from her list of potential mothers.

This is a movie that wants to be about death and life and love, but spends most of it with Mia and Kyle falling in love with Spain in the background while the score plays for the audience. This is a very substance-less movie that would have worked way better if the Mia from the beginning was just an impetuous girl and Kyle had nothing left to live for except the moment.

The film has good music and I enjoyed the strong start, but the movie just got heavier and slower. There’s also a pile of logistic issues – these are two American teenagers one of whom has no money, the other has their parent’s credit card, and they have multiple hospital stays in Spain with no legal guardian around. We just have to ignore it. The film gets further confused near the end when the big climactic moment occurs off-screen. The entire point of the movie was just erased so they could turn it into a romance.

See You on Venus has some good ideas and presumably a good budget with a nicely polished look, but the lightweight tragi-comedy from the beginning fizzles out into a confused romantic drama.