Fantastic Fest Review: Renata Pinheiro’s ‘King Car’
A slew of well framed establishing shots linger on screen as the opening credits of Renata Pinheiro’s science fiction drama King Car flash across them, giving the viewer a vivid glimpse of the humble yet vast Brazilian city where the story takes place. Introduced to the main character via his birth in the backseat of a taxi owned by his father, the film quickly skips forward in Uno’s life to sometime in his early childhood. This is short-lived also, though it’s during this sequence that the viewer is let in on the primary plot device: Uno can telepathically communicate with automobiles, which happen to be secretly sentient beings capable of feeling emotion. Spending the majority of his days talking to his favorite car in his father’s fleet, it’s clear that he’s not an ordinary boy. Soon thereafter Uno’s mother dies in a tragic car accident following an argument with his father, leading to the third and final jump which brings the story forward to Uno’s young adult years.
When given an ultimatum by his father to either “live up to his destiny as the owner of the taxi company or leave this home immediately” we see Uno opt for the latter, where he moves into the junkyard his uncle Zé Macaco inhabits alongside an ever-expanding roster of vehicular-based inventions and his bizarre business partner Mercedes, a local pole dancer. Uno begins taking ecology classes and in the process meets a love interest named Amora, a young woman with ideals similar to his own and that shares a mutual affection for him. While all of this is happening there’s a new law introduced by the government banning all vehicles that are fifteen years or older from the road, which obviously creates a large and difficult hurdle for the already struggling taxi business owned by Uno’s father as well as numerous other local citizens who can’t afford newer vehicles. With the help of his wackily inventive uncle Uno sets out to thwart the new law by upgrading a derelict automobile, the same one that’s responsible for his mother’s death and that he once referred to as his best friend, in order to make it street legal.
After successfully doing so and starting a trend with the local residents things begin to take a sinister turn due to a set of unforeseen circumstances that manifest from the duo’s new invention, with the remainder of the film’s ninety-seven minute runtime spent exploring the metaphorical, personal, and political repercussions that follow. It’s admittedly a bit all over the place during the back half in terms of narrative and doesn’t quite manage to provide a proper resolution to many of the issues that arise by the time the credits roll; though the act of raising some lingering, thought-provoking politically and socially charged questions in the process via the film’s well-executed magical realism seems to have been the primary goal of the filmmakers, one they accomplished quite well despite not being able tie up all the loose ends. This unique vision, supported by excellent performances from relatively unknown actors will surely have a fair share of fans and critics alike, but there’s an undeniable sense of wonder that the style of storytelling used here instills. By effortlessly mixing it’s bizarrely fantastical elements with a grounded, almost mumblecore sensibility it creates a blend of genres that feels wholly unique. Keep your hands on the gear shift for release information on King Car, which will be added here as it’s made available.