Brazilian filmmaker Gustavo Milan graduated from the French school of documentary Les Ateliers Varan in Paris and then went to New York, where he attended the NYU Tisch Graduate Film Program. His debut short film, Under the Heavens, is a positive indicator of what he’s capable to do and should propel him to advance confidently to the next stage.
Marta (Samantha Castillo) left her country, Venezuela, to take her chances in Brazil. She’s heading to São Paulo, where the work opportunities abound. However, to embrace this venture, she had to let go of her baby daughter. Her breasts are still full of milk and that uncomfortable sensation forces her to squeeze them in order to alleviate the pain.
Marta travels alone, hitchhiking and paying strangers to drive her to the following city. Vilmar (Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos) agrees to take her to Manaus in his pickup truck with other immigrants. Among them is a young couple – Alice (Brenda Moreno) and Jorge (Abilio Torres) – who tries to pacify their hungry newborn. Apparently, the woman cannot breastfeed and Marta offers herself to do so. The fate of this encounter seems miraculous but Jorge is not as thankful as he should, revealing an impulsive, violent side that puts the two women in danger during a stop for the night.
Clocking in at 17 minutes, this motion picture is defined by a clear narrative, a competent cinematography by Lasse Ulvedal Tolbøll (his work here doesn’t reach the magnificence demonstrated in Alexandre Rockwell’s Sweet Thing), and apt performances, especially by Castillo (Bad Hair, 2013; El Amparo, 2016) and Torres. Both actors have previously worked together in El Malquerido (2015), a biopic centered on the Venezuelan singer Felipe Pirela.
The suspense created by a few situations makes one alert, and the surprising factors work well. Milan also plays with ambiguity at different stages. While Marta keeps her difficulties untold and the behavior of the greedy driver suggests more trouble, the ending, which might have made a serviceable starting point for a second half, will let you think of different possibilities. Are these women willing to proceed together? Is this a permanent gift from heavens to someone shattered by loss or a merely fortuitous circumstance? In either case, the future looks brighter than before.
Director: Gustavo Milan
Writer: Gustavo Milan
Stars: Samantha Castillo, Brenda Moreno, Abilio Torres
Runtime: 17 mins