Joaquín Cambre’s directorial debut A Trip to the Moon, fashions itself as an escapist dysfunctional family drama that regularly blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. As its title suggests, the plot centres on a meticulously planned voyage into outer space, dreamt up by teenager, Tomas, who sees it as the only means to escape his annoying family. Struggling with not only regular teenage problems, Tomas is also stuffed full of anti-psychosis medication by his mother, who believes that her son is crazy and has no idea that he harbours a terrible family secret that explains his behaviour.
Tomas deals with his trauma through studying the stars, a telescope perched within his room is his ultimate escape. He can recite facts about the solar system and knows all of the important factors needed to create a vessel that could travel to outer space. Obviously, this interest doesn’t make him a particularly popular character around other kids- particularly girls.
Iris is Tomas’ cool, older next door neighbour and his first love interest. What develops between the pair is nothing short of charming: she’s interested in his scientific insights and in return she makes him feel like more of a regular kid. They lounge around empty pools draped against a stunning Argentinian backdrop; Cambre’s eye for crisp visuals doesn’t go unnoticed. There is a particularly endearing moment reminiscent of the dance scene in Call Me By Your Name where Tomas and Iris dance at a party to an electro soundtrack, strobe lighting effects feel transportive and the coming-of-age nature of the film truly shines through to heart-warming effect. The exploration of the awkwardness and ‘first-times’ of being a teenager seem to flow naturally through Cambre and Laura Farhi’s script, it’s just a shame that so little time is spent with these younger characters in the films second half.
Once Tomas starts to feel more comfortable with himself he stops taking the medication his doctor prescribes, much to the disdain of his mother. This alteration within Tomas’ brain triggers his reality to become warped and he starts imagining himself in a space suit making a lunar landing, and Iris’ face within the moon itself. His hallucinations eventually take over the narrative as his tiny bedroom becomes a spacecraft in which he has trapped his family, preparing for take-off.
This half of the film is meant to explore the struggling dynamics between the family, and visually represent when Tomas’ emotions overwhelm him (the spaceship overheats during a climactic emotional scene). Decked out in retro space-suits, Cambre tries to grapple with the hefty subject matter of overcoming trauma but it largely falls flat once the story is firmly within the fantasy narrative- the metaphor and clunky nature the dialogue at this point completely overriding the films previous achievements. Quirky visuals don’t seem to mask the lack of personality radiating from the films central characters, and when they are all together trapped in a one-room scenario, the lively environment from previous scenes dissolves in an anti-climactic finale.
A Trip to the Moon finds its greatest successes in working with its natural environment, the delicious pastel tones seeping through each frame of Argentinian streets and skies create a sense of style and place that feels grounded. When sticking within the coming-of-age parameter the film has a down-to-earth and charming beat that is led astray during the underdeveloped dreamlike sequences in Tomas’ imagination. Ultimately, the balance it strikes between its reality and fantasy worlds seems too disjointed to remain endearing throughout.
Dir: Joaquín Cambre
Scr: Joaquín Cambre, Laura Farhi
Cast: Ángelo Mutti Spinetta, Leticia Brédice, Germán Palacios, Ángela Torres, Luis Machín
Prd: Diego Peskins, Joaquín Cambre
Runtime: 87 minutes
A Trip to the Moon is released March 22nd