Michael Ward on Thursday, May 24
Ambiguity, or the proverbial open-ended conclusion, can be a storyteller's worst enemy, lulling them into a false sense of security. Oftentimes it can work well, which is why it becomes a go-to for so many filmmakers. However, it also can seem like a safe "out" when a story feels like it has worked itself into a corner without a proper finishing sequence.
And so, here we have the Brazilian film Rust, Aly Muritiba's sobering, cautionary tale of school dynamics, politics, and bullying in the age of social media and smartphones. Essentially a two-part story, indicated as such in title cards on screen, Part One gives us the looks, the glances, and the beginnings of a possible romance between Tati (Tiffanny Dopke) and Renet (Giovanni di Lorenzi), while away with classmates on a weekend science field trip.
Things are going smoothly until Tati loses her phone on the first night of the trip and never finds it. Then, back at school that following Monday, she sees everyone looking at her, commenting, and whispering about her. Her best friends take her aside, and in the stall of the restroom, inform her that a private video made with her ex-boyfriend has been leaked all over the school, and eventually, the internet.
Mortified, she is immediately ridiculed and Muritiba's film spends its first 40 minutes taking us through the devastating effects bullying can have on someone. Tati gets smirks from teachers, teased incessently by classmates, and none of her friends, including Renet, stick up for her. She becomes isolated and withdrawn.
In the second half of the film, we shift to Renet's story, and see his parents estranged, his mother pregnant with another man's child, and a fractured family struggling to connect and work within a new normal.
Eventually Renet and Tati's stories come back together, with one individual's tale finding a conclusion, and the other left without resolution. At times Rust is captivating, as we explore the thoughts behind the actions, or the inaction of some significant characters. The film does however leave a lot on the table.
Decisions are made that lack proper explanation and when a pivotal moment near the end of the film finally takes place, we are left with more questions than answers.
Frustrating at times, Rust does strike a balance between hyperbole and grounded truth and troubling realities. In the age of social media, our kids, and the generations that follow, will never have less communication in their lives. And though they may very well become masters at using various apps to communicate via text, photo, video, music, and whatever else, the foundations they have to build to shoulder all of that content passing back and forth is extremely fragile.
In that regard, Rust, and all the clumsy ground it covers, cannot be dismissed because, as we see, when someone loses their primary source of external communication, in this case a phone, everything can crash down around them with the simple tap of a button, bringing forth potential consequences felt by people for years and years to come.
Starring: Tiffanny Dopke, Giovanni de Lorenzi, Enrique Diaz, Clarissa Kiste, Dudah Azevedo, Pedro Inoue.
Director: Aly Muritiba
Written by: Aly Muritiba, Jessica Candal
Running Time: 100 Minutes
May 22 | Ark Lodge Cinemas | 8:30 PM
May 31 | SIFF Egyptian | 9:15 PM
June 1 | SIFF Cinema Uptown | 1:30 PM