- Katie Bell
Airplane Mode (2020)
Updated: Apr 26, 2020
I find myself perpetually confused when a Netflix movie, mentions Netflix in a throwaway line, to advertise Netflix. "What does he watch?" Mum asks. "He likes TV shows...anything on Netflix," Ana responds. Netflix, I'm already watching Netflix, thus I have Netflix and you don't have to advertise Netflix to me. Side note: "anything" on Netflix, is a lot of different things, Ana.
Netflix aside, Airplane Mode (2020) is about Ana (Larissa Manoela), a fashion design graduate, who is an influencer instead of a fashion designer. From what I gather, Ana seemingly posted a picture online at some point, became "photogram"-famous and is now considered "amazing" because "she brought back fanny packs with one post". Honestly, I don't think Ana should be too proud of that final achievement, but I am certain the young people of the world (or at least some of them) would aggressively disagree with me.
Anyway, Ana has some serious mobile phone addiction. She is constantly on social media, doing social media things. She ends up in a number of car accidents, because she is illegally using her phone whilst driving (apparently eight crashes in one month). So, it is decided that Ana needs to go and live with her Granddad (Erasmo Carlos) in the bush (or the Brazilian equivalent) where there aren't any mobile phones or mobile phone reception.
This film explores a number of themes that are relevant to 21st century life. Firstly, Airplane Mode obviously looks at phone addiction. After Ana's mobile is confiscated, she engages in many illegal or, at the very least, unethical behaviours, in attempts to get back online. She tries to steal an older lady's phone on a train, she tries to take a young girl's phone, and when the girl hesitates to hand it over, says, "It's rude to be selfish"...then she fights the kid. I'm not joking. She breaks into a shop to get toilet paper (#dontpanicbuy), hears a phone vibrating on a very high shelf. (Don't ask me why someone's personal device was left on the top shelf of a corner store...I have no reasons except #plotpoint), Anyway, she attempts to climb the tall shelving to get to the phone and obviously this ends in catastrophe. You can take solace in the fact that, after multiple failed attempts to steal phones, even when left unguarded, she does manage to get her hands on one, but it literally has to be left completely abandoned in order for her to have success. These repeated attempts at theft, highlight Ana's desperation to retrieve something that she really doesn't need in order to be happy. Which I suppose is the whole message of the film.
Airplane Mode also comments on the phony nature of social media. Ana wakes up, spends a great deal of time in front of the mirror doing her hair and make-up, only to jump back into bed and announce that she's "just woken up" to her many followers. In fact, Ana is more concerned about her appearance online, than her apparent health, safety and wellbeing. When her mother says, "You shouldn't skip breakfast," Ana responds by saying, "You're right," before promptly taking a picture of the delicious meal that her mother had prepared and uploading it to all of her respective accounts. Of course, she's not just skipping meals, she's also endangering herself (and others) through her ongoing habit of getting into car accidents, which are of course also posted online. Being young, and the kind of person who forgoes food and safety for the purpose of likes, Ana is also the kind of human-being who doesn't like to take responsibility for her actions. This is an adult person. She has graduated from a fashion design course. Yet, when she walks in on her father in the bathroom, because she is too busy checking her phone to knock on the door, or you know, check that it's empty, she blames him, because it's his fault for not fixing the door earlier? Furthermore, when her parents FINALLY confiscate her car keys, she responds by having a go at them, and insisting that she's an independent adult. Essentially, her stance is: LIFE IS UNFAIR, I DON'T DESERVE THIS, I'M INDEPENDENT, YOU'RE SO UNREASONABLE etc.
All of the above, are themes that I can get behind. This film is PG-rated and is aimed at an audience of people much younger than me. I only hope that they have the same ability to pick up on irony, that I do. I worry though, that they will be #teamAna and will also see Ana's parents as behaving UNFAIRLY. Because life is UNFAIR.
This film is quite nice to look at. Lots of pastel colours are used, particularly when Ana is at home in the city. When she moves to the country, the colour palette changes, but everything is still quite colourful; it's just a different kind of pretty. There's a particularly beautiful low-angled shot of Ana and her grandfather standing in front of a forest. "Life is about searching, not finding," Granddad says, as the audience basks in the beauty of nature...Other than the beauty of nature though, I can't really think of a reason for the low angle...but oh well. It is pretty. Clearly, the contrast in colour palettes highlights the appeal of the fake online world, versus the beauty of nature and love of family.
The film also has fun, animations that pop up to show people reacting to Ana's posts, and also to show what other people are doing on their phones. In all, the visuals are probably the most appealing aspect of the movie.
Whilst the visuals are the best thing about this film, the relationships are the worst thing about this film. I'm going to go right out on a limb and say, none of the relationships are actually earnt. Case in point: Ana's romantic interest in this film spends roughly two minutes of screen time with her, before we abruptly cut to a close-up of his "I'm in love" face. Additionally, in those two minutes, Ana calls his sister selfish, tries to fight his sister, breaks into his family's business and tries to steal from them. But none of this matters, because HE LOVES HER. Now let's talk about her relationship with granddad. First of all, she's incredibly rude to Grandpa Germano when she first moves in with him. Eventually she earns a tiny bit of trust, so he takes her on a drive to love interest's residence. While there, she tries to fight love interest's sister a second time, so Grandpa Germano puts her back in the car and drives her home. Of course, once in the car, she starts going off about how Grandpa Germano never listened to her, so he doesn't like, get her, like as a human being, coz like she's deep. Grandpa Germano stops the car. "You're right," he says, "I judged you without listening". Then they get out of the car and get amongst the #trees. Upon arriving home, he let's her into the secret locked room, that she wasn't allowed into for the first two weeks that she lived there (it's his version of the West Wing from Beauty and the Beast, when she asks why it's out of bounds, he basically says, IT JUST IS).
Relationships develop so easily in this film. Nothing is earnt and therefore nothing is really believable. This really detracted from the film for me. Everything is just far too easy. The only relationship, that does seem to be realistic, is Ana's relationship with Julia, the kid that she keeps getting into scraps with. The messages in the film are serious, but because the relationships aren't earnt, they sometimes don't hit home with the same effect that they might have if the stakes were higher.
If you are living in self-isolation at the moment, and want to throw something on the television in the background, whilst you're doing the ironing, this is the film for you. It looks pretty and Larissa Manoela does at decent job in her role. The only trouble is, you'll have to deal with poor voice acting. I decided to watch it with the subtitles on (about 20 minutes in), because the actors who did the English dubbing (the default on Netflix) are deplorable. It is a lot better to watch the original version with English subtitles. So I guess, if you're going to watch it, you either need to put up with dodgy dubbing whilst you iron your clothes, or sit down and fully invest like I did...I'm not sure it's worth it either way.
...Unless you can speak Portuguese, then it's totally worth it, because you can iron and listen...