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We Are on Air (Estamos no Ar)

Three members from three different generations of a Portuguese middle-class family are equally lonesome and desperately seeking action - wacky little comedy premieres at the 53rd International Film Festival Rotterdam


Vitor (Carloto Cotta) is a 30-something Portuguese gay man in a relationship with a younger Brazilian, whom he’s desperately to please. He dresses up in a police uniform in order to spice up their relationship. Their sexual attraction is very powerful, so much that Vitor watches his loves twerk sensually on his mobile while riding his motorbike (despite the prospect of a horrific accident at any moment). Yet something prevents the romance from fully blossoming. The two men barely communicate, and Vitor never brings his other half home (where he lives with his mother Fatima, played by Sandra Faleiro). Perhaps he isn’t even out to his family.

Similarly to her son, Fatima has a police uniform fetish. She’s head over heels for a new neighbour, who happens to be a real copper and is conveniently on the brink of a divorce. The 50-something woman is very vain and attractive, and she can’t wait to put her brand new tits to use, the byproduct of a recent breast augmentation surgery. She’s a little concerned that she lost sensitivity in the area since the procedure, despite the very questionable cosmetic surgeon insisting that nothing went wrong and that no nerve could have possibly been affected. Ultimately, Fatima is more concerned with satiating her nether areas. She has become wholly desensitised to affection and romance. She’s just plain horny.

The third generation is represented by recently-widowed grandma Julia (Valerie Braddell). Two female friends help her to overcome her loss, generously lending a hand and also other parts of their anatomy – in a plot vaguely evoking Ghost (Jerry Zucker, 1990). It works. The charming elderly lady feels accompanied and satiated – to the despair of Vitor and Fatima, who shudder at the idea that sweet ol’ granny is in somehow in touch with the dead. Ironically, Julia is the most satisfied of the three very different family members. The many decades have taught her a thing or two about romance and pleasure. Her descendants Fatima and Vitor are too concerned with more mundane trivialities.

Diogo Costa Amarante’s first feature film (the 41-year-old filmmaker and scriptwriter had previously made seven short films) blends elements of black comedy with drama in order to deliver a satisfactory piece of filmmaking, with some peculiar insight into the wounds and the fetishes of the Portuguese middle-class. Overall, We Are on Air boasts some very good moments – such as Fatima’s frustrated attempts at seducing her neighbour, and Vitor’s barely erotic and extremely contrived role play -, but it is also dogged by some flaws. There are some cliched symbolisms that add little to the story, such an iron on the vagina (representing burning desire), and a dirty kitchen rat (a proxy for Fatima’s descent into hopelessness and alienation). The film title refers to a television talk show interspersed through the film. All three family members are part of the audience, however they never become actively involved in the programme. Another clumsy symbolism. Still, a sweet debut feature.

We Are on Air just premiered at the 53rd International Film Festival Rotterdam.

By Victor Fraga - 02-02-2024

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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