‘Rust’: Film Review | Sundance 2018

Brazilian director Aly Muritiba’s intimate drama ‘Rust’ centers on a leaked sex tape that sets off a tragic chain of events.

Rust, Brazilian director Aly Muritiba’s follow-up to his bereavement-centric debut To My Beloved, examines the tragic repercussions that follow the release online of a teenage girl’s homemade sex tape. Muritiba employs an interesting tactic with the script, co-written by Jessica Candal, by breaking up the narrative into two parts, the first focusing on the young woman in the sex tape, the second on the person who leaked it. The approach manages to tap into zeitgeist-y discussions around revenge porn, bullying and misogyny raging worldwide at the moment, while still attempting to construct a nuanced understanding of how just a few bad decisions, by both victim and perpetrator, can ruin lives. Exposure in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at Sundance may result in pickups for niche distribution beyond Brazil and Portugal, especially given the film’s timely subject.

Pretty 16-year-old Tati (Tiffanny Dopke) is a fairly normal, popular, well-adjusted student in what looks like a fairly upper-middle-class community in an unnamed Brazilian city. Not long ago, she split up with her boyfriend Nando. Now, she’s ready to move on and has started flirting with Renet (Giovanni de Lorenzi), the brooding, handsome son of one of her high-school teachers, David (Enrique Diaz), but Tati still has a video clip of herself and Nando performing an unspecified sex act on her iPhone. During a school trip, she and Renet make out, but her phone goes missing and, despite help from the whole class to look for it, no one finds it.

The Bottom Line

The best kind of after-school special.

At school the next day, other kids keep giving Tati knowing looks and making snickering, sotto voce comments. It turns out that the video clip of her and Nando has gone viral. Humiliated and distraught, Tati realizes it could only have been uploaded by someone who has her phone, or Nando himself if he’s lying about having deleted the clip months ago. When none of her friends will fess up to the betrayal, in despair Tati takes a drastic, irreversible step that will affect everyone.

The second part of the film shifts location to a beach house where David, Renet, Renet’s little sister Renata (Dudah Azevedo) and Normal (Pedro Inoue), David’s teenage nephew, try to process their reactions to Tati’s act. It emerges that the teenage boys are more complicit in the tragedy than they’re letting on.

Having set up such a strong premise, the last act slowly leaks the oxygen out of the drama. On the other hand, some viewers may feel relieved and even admire that the script doesn’t conclude with an even darker, more melodramatic outcome. As such, the film would almost qualify as the kind of work that could be shown in high schools to educate teens, and it’s no surprise to learn that Muritiba was himself a high-school teacher before he became a filmmaker — not that this necessarily plays as a strictly didactic work. There are pleasing artistic flourishes, like a foreshadowing image of waves overwhelming Tati, and parallelisms elsewhere that endow the movie with a literary feel.

Rui Pocas’ alternately luridly colored and almost monochrome cinematography adds flavor to Rust, while understated but ominous use of sound enhances the atmosphere of dread. All the same, one can’t help thinking if only poor Tati had thought to install an app to help her locate her phone, none of this might have happened.

Production company: Grafo Audiovisual
Cast: Tiffany Dopke, Enrique Diaz, Clarissa Kiste, Giovanni de Lorenzi, Dudah Azevedo, Pedro Inoue
Director: Aly Muritiba
Screenwriters: Aly Muritiba, Jessica Candal
Producer: Antonio Junior
Executive producers: Antonio Junior, Chris Spode
Director of photography: Rui Pocas
Art director: Tiago Marques
Costumes: Valeria Stefani
Editor: Joao Menna Barreto
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema Dramatic Competition)

Sales: Be For Films

100 minutes