UK Release Date – TBC
Cargo may be an apt title for a story in which people are changed from human beings into a commodity, but it’s certainly not a snappy name that makes this release stand out from the crowd. This isn’t the story about zombies or the film about a man inside a shipping container. It’s not about a fishery or a spaceship either. Instead this is a tale of personal tragedy and the way any sense of reality in a struggle can be warped when money is involved. It might be set in the Bahamas but this isn’t a travelogue film and instead focuses on small scale drama as a fisherman decides to take a darker path. But do these elements make it stand out amongst a sea of similarly name films? It’s hard to say for sure.
Kevin (Warren Brown) is almost bankrupt – both financially and morally. After doing his best to send his son to a fancy boarding school and provide for his neurotic wife Berneice (Persia White) following a drugs scandal, it’s clear that he doesn’t have a firm grip on the situation. His aims might seem benevolent but his methods are less than savoury and his problems with gambling certainly aren’t helping any of his family members. Nassau might be a beautiful place but there’s an immediate sense that beyond the azure waves and tourist traps there’s a kind of desperation in play for many of the locals.
It doesn’t help that Kevin also has to balance his marital problems with his elderly mother’s health as she slips in and out of dementia episodes, some of which are more disconcerting than others. The fish he catches don’t seem to be paying the bills and the boat tour business is apparently non-existence (although we never see him trying to catch the latter). But while much of the drama is fairly compelling this is also the first issue with the film as it fails to build momentum and just simply shows Kevin meandering from one dilemma to the next. He can’t afford to fill up his car, he can’t make his wife happy on her birthday, and he certainly can’t please his bank manager.
Inevitably all his mistakes crash in on themselves and he’s forced to make an even dumber decision – to use his boat to take illegal immigrants from the Caribbean to America. For a whole of course this seems to help all his problems, and he makes a lot of money very quickly. He even hires help for the house and his mother, and he gets his son’s education back on track. But he’s not a clever man, and of course this selfish and short-sighted endeavour soon turns sour. Maybe he should have chosen something that wasn’t so morally questionable, even before news reports hint that his boat trip customers aren’t reaching Miami. Maybe he should stop gambling. Maybe he shouldn’t be having an affair with a local waitress.
Kevin’s characterisation, when it’s actually explored, seems to be that he’s a bad decision maker with bad luck. If there’s an arc here it’s that he’s not really a nice guy who sometimes tries to be nicer when things go his way, but transforms into a complete and utter jerk when the pressure is on. There’s not that much under the surface even when his romance with Celianne (Gessica Geneus) briefly soothes his tormented soul. His son, the focus of his money making efforts, isn’t around enough for there to be a relationship. The result is less of a thriller and more a lethargic melodrama, even when everything comes to a head during the finale.
Generally the pacing is the big problem, but the film has also a fairly restrained score that doesn’t add suspense to the proceedings. Kevin swans around causing problems for the people trying to escape the island and those working there under duress. In most of these cases he just makes things worse but there’s a lack of immediacy to much of the story. The narrative should heat up when the destination of the migrants is made clear, or when the reasons his wife hates him are revealed… but the drama remains slow and uninvolved. Even the finale lacks suspense, and it could all do with sharper editing and a good half-hour being cut from the running time.
Beyond these issues it does at least try to tell a contemporary story and examine real life issues. It’s just a shame that the dramatic images of drowned corpses contrasting with beautiful shores never lead the story into a more serious examination of lives being damaged by poverty and sickness. The performances are pretty solid, in particular Warren Brown’s portrayal of someone trying to do good while being detached from the trauma he leaves in his wake. It’s also a visually striking film for the most part as the waves of paradise clash with the harsh reality of destitute villages. But in the end the balance between docu-drama and crime thriller should have been more engaging — it’s a story that wants to ask tough questions but doesn’t cut deeply enough.