Carga is a new Portuguese film written and directed by Bruno Gascon. The movie tells the story of a group of people who are interconnected by their ties to a vast human trafficking network in Russia and Portugal. One of the stories involves Viktoriya, who must fight to survive and escape a life of brutal enslavement.
This film is definitely very ambitious in the way in which it tries to connect a few different stories. It isn’t an anthology movie, nor is it quite a sprawling ensemble piece a la Magnolia. Instead, this film has too much connection to work as either of those types of movies, but too little to be effective as a narrative on its own. It exists in a weird grey area in which it isn’t unwatchable, but not particularly good either.
The biggest issue with the film is its lack of character development. Because there are a few different things happening at once, the movie was unable to find the balance between the storylines to develop the characters in an effective way. There are hints of potential in the characters that make them seem like they are going to go in an interesting direction, but they rarely do.
Since the narrative is so disjointed, the pacing is very hectic. It certainly isn’t slow, but there isn’t much to hold your interest in the film either. The cuts are so rapid and the transitions between the stories so sudden that the movie simply feels like it is jumping back and forth with little effect. Sometimes you will switch stories and not even notice.
The only reason that this film is even remotely interesting is the themes which it covers. The movie does ask some interesting questions about human trafficking. Obviously, it is unethical, but the film does go a bit deeper into that, asking questions about the guilt of those who are not directly involved with the act, but are associated. At times, this does begin to be a bit preachy, but for the most part, it is thought-provoking.
The acting is just as unmemorable as the characters they play. This again goes back to the fractured narrative of the movie. No one is given enough screen time at a single point for the audience to be able to effectively form a bond with any of the characters. There are a few scenes that are emotionally resonant, but these are few in number and can sometimes feel excessive or contrived.
In technical terms, the film was solid, but not great. The movie as a whole has a very dark look, and that works with the tone of the film even though it isn’t particularly appealing aesthetically. It would have helped had there been a bit more flair and artistry in the cinematography, particularly in the more emotional scenes. The subtitles were also a bit distracting at times, as the English in which they were written was broken and inconsistent.
Overall, Carga was a relatively disappointing movie. Although it does have some interesting themes, the characters and story are simply too messy to truly captivate the audience.
Carga is now available on DVD and VOD.