Sisterhood and brotherhood can be bonds that are hard to break. In Edouard Salier‘s Tropic, the brotherly bond is vigorously tested as brothers train to become astronauts.
Science fiction doesn’t always have to be about invading aliens, the unknown, or even technology. Salier‘s drama is very much a sci-fi story grounded in reality, with a big slice of body horror pie that not even David Cronenberg would dare to say no to.
Jealousy, masculinity, and family are all themes explored in Tropic (or its French title, “Tropique“). Set in 2041, the film follows twin brothers Tristan and Lazaro (played by Louis Peres and Pablo Cobo), who cannot be separated for love or money. They even attend the same elite space school, training to become first-generation astronauts. Both are doing really well, especially Tristan.
If they succeed, they will become a part of the European Space Program, involved in a mission into deep space and colonization. There are only three spots available for the French students. Both brothers still live with their Spanish mother Mayra (Marta Nieto), who is rightly proud of her boys. Tristan is miles ahead of his brother in achieving their goal, while Lazaro may be a tad jealous that his brother is still a role model for him.
Tristan encourages his little brother in every way he can. In the opening scene, both brothers are tested underwater, and Tristan lasts longer. He’ll never leave Lazaro behind if he gets picked. Lazaro has trust issues, all thanks to when their father abandoned them. When the brothers head to the nearby lake to practice, an unidentified object (possibly a meteor) crash-lands into the lake, unleashing a green toxin residue. It disfigures Tristan when he can’t escape the lake quickly enough. Now he cannot do his training or even be the person he used to be.
Keeping the science fiction elements to a minimum actually works well for Tropic, as it allows the focus to be on the brothers’ relationship and the impact the accident has on both their lives. Despite Lazaro’s attempts to help his brother, their relationship becomes strained. Tristan finds solace with a group of disabled students, but his life has turned upside down, and not even his girlfriend wants to be with him anymore. He is becoming more accepting of his circumstances, even as his brother struggles to accept the situation. Lazaro feels unable to step out of his brother’s shadow, and their mother is settling into the idea that her boys may have to stay on earth. She wants Lazaro to continue with his life and leave Tristan to her care.
The science fiction elements in the film play more in the background than in the forefront. Through television news reports, we get hints that all is not well for Mother Earth. Hence, the Space School needs young cadets for a mission that could be long, possibly one-way, and requires strength both mentally and physically. The body horror element takes more of a front-row perspective, thanks to Tristan’s injuries. The mask takes him into the Phantom Of The Opera zone, and his journey steps into David Cronenberg territory.
Tropic is essentially a family drama that serves as a study of humanity as much as it is about succeeding. It’s a bittersweet story about grief, masculinity, and brotherhood – a beautifully haunting and complex drama with fantastic performances from the entire cast.
Sci-fi, Drama | France, 2022 | 15 | Glasgow FIlm Festival | Blue Finch Film Releasing |Dir.Edouard Salier | Pablo Cobo, Louis Peres, Marta Nieto