The First Fallen (2023) Film Review
What Rodrigo de Oliveira achieved with its property The first failed (original title: Os Primeiros Soldados or The First Soldiers) is a guerilla film without the typical style of that film genre. You don’t need to make your features extremely realistic for your audience to understand a particular setting in space and time. It just needs good performances and a script that translates the overall feel perfectly.
In The first failed, AIDS is a relatively unknown disease. It was still wrongly attributed to a certain population (dubbed the “gay plague”) and a cure was far from conceivable. In Brazil, young men are still trying to understand the symptoms when death strikes extremely quickly. Suzano is a young man who discovers that he may have contracted the disease that threatens everyone around him. His only resource is to document his last days so that his family can have one last piece of life.
Alongside Suzano is Rose, a transgender woman who has also contracted the disease and angrily confronts a system that cannot cope with her existence, nor with the consequences of her illness. He becomes a part of Suzano’s underworld, in which they participate in a montage that represents an immersion in an emotional realization.
De Oliveira’s film is a drama set in an unconventional narrative structure that becomes interesting when the tragedy becomes real and expected. Character development isn’t done in the usual way, and the film rarely takes a first-person perspective to make the audience emotionally connect with a character.
However, Johnny Massaro as Suzano is responsible for that inevitable connection. The young performer is exceptional in portraying the downfall of a man whose expectations must be dashed by something unfathomable. The character’s deep emotional breakdown is perfectly represented by the actor, whose work in the film is essential. We want to see more of it.
The first failed it’s not personal. It is the story of many, condensed into a few stories, carried out by people who, in the 80s and 90s, suffered from a disease important enough to shake society to its core. AIDS was still something that people could not incorporate into their daily lives. We’re sure some of them felt it was a punishment, a materialization of what society had cursed them for.
Rodrigo de Oliveira‘s The first failed comes full circle in a final sequence that doesn’t seem relevant. Nevertheless, it is an inescapably universal message about the role of a community in a health crisis that has affected the entire world but has drastically changed the dynamics of some parts of society. It’s interestingly optimistic in a film that wasn’t all that hopeful.