King Car


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

King Car
"There’s a huge amount of ambition in Renata Pinheiro’s film." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

Uno (Luciano Pedro Jr) was born in a car. Not that uncommon, you might think – not everybody being driven to hospital whilst in labour is going to make it in time – but in Uno’s case, something magical happens. He develops a special bond with the car involved and, as he grows up, develops the ability to speak to cars and understand what they say.

It’s not a talent he wants to base his life around. His real passion is for agriculture, something which deeply disappoints his father, who had hoped he would take over the family taxi company, and leads to them becoming estranged. Later, however, after his father has suffered a heart attack, Uno returns to the family home and reconnects with the vehicle he was born in, which has been rusting away at the back of the garage. Aided by his uncle Zé (Matheus Nachtergaele), a highly skilled mechanic who is the first human with whom he shares his secret, he gives it an entirely new body, transforming it into Carro Rei – King Car.

Copy picture

In a neighbourhood where everybody is driving around in wrecks, King Car looks state of the art, the kind of machine kids chase after in excitement. He’s large, kind of boxy yet sleekly accoutred, highly polished, glammed up in every available way. He’s also equipped with a specially engineered voicebox which helps him to communicate not just with Uno, but with everybody. This asset helps him to acquire a human girlfriend – their sex scene is charmingly coy and very Eighties – and to in the admiration of all the other cars he meets. But as he revels in his new found status, King Car starts to develop revolutionary ideas, and his bond with Uno becomes perilously fragile.

The film is set against the backdrop of Brazil’s changing relationship with the automobile and has a distinct allegorical slant, with tinkering that initially seems like a great idea leading to a situation which could be perilous for humankind. This isn’t addressed in purely dogmatic terms, however. We see the deep love that numerous characters have for their cars, and we’re reminded of the unfair economic burden that climate control measures are, at present, placing on the poor. A new law banning vehicles over 15 years old from the streets is not as green as it looks in light of the additional production it brings about, and it places Uno’s family business in jeopardy. Yet as King Car rallies his troops against it, Uno’s girlfriend Amora (Joelma Martins) – who has no superpowers of her own but whose botanical contrivances bear some resemblance to those of Poison Ivy – strives to come up with eco-friendly solutions to the people’s plight. Can love save the day?

There’s a huge amount of ambition in Renata Pinheiro’s film, which is screening at Fantasia 2021. It features some fantastic pieces of design – she comes from an art department background. Unfortunately, despite the (ahem) driving power one would expect from its narrative, it spends too much time idling or going nowhere in particular. This is only her second feature and it gives the impression that she has simply tried to pack in too much, lacking the experience that might have told her when to make judicious cuts and tighten her focus. The result is a film with some memorable moments but, in the end, not enough fuel in the tank to take it where it’s trying to go.

Reviewed on: 17 Aug 2021
Share this with others on...
King Car packshot
The son of a taxi company owner converts written-off cars into futuristic vehicles that are conscious and speak, but will capitalism destroy his dream?

Director: Renata Pinheiro

Writer: Sergio Oliveira, Renata Pinheiro

Starring: Okado do Canal, Jules Elting, Matheus Nachtergaele, Luciano Pedro Jr

Year: 2021

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Brazil


Fantasia 2021

Search database: