M-8 — When Death Rescues Life (Original title M8 — Quando a Morte Socorre a Vida) is a Brazilian film released in 2019, directed by Jeferson De. A medicine student begins to feel strangely connected to one of the cadavers of his anatomy class.
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Maurício (played by Juan Paiva) grew up in a modest lifestyle provided by his mother, Cida (played by Mariana Nunes), working as a nurse. He managed to get into a Federal University to study Medicine, the only black person in the class.
In the anatomy class, he meets Suzana (played by Giulia Gayoso) and Domingos (played by Bruno Peixoto), with whom he becomes friends. In the same class, they meet M8 (played by Raphael Logam), the cadaver they’ll study. M8 and the two other cadavers, like our protagonist Maurício, are black.
The young man becomes increasingly connected with M8, having dreams and visions in the terreiro where he practices his faith, Candomblé (an Afro-Brazilian religion). So, he decides to investigate who that man was.
M-8 has an amazing story that got me hooked from beginning to end. It has an intriguing mystery that makes you curious, and the social commentary is on point, in line with reality.
The Brazilian Federal Universities are the hardest to get into, especially for lower-income students that can’t pay for preparatory courses and/or can’t dedicate their time only to study, without working.
And Medicine is particularly competitive to join. The 2020 exam of The Rio de Janeiro State University had more than nine thousand candidates for only 104 openings.
Another thing the movie represented accurately was the racial relations in the University. The film makes clear that Maurício has more to do with the workers Sinvaldo and Sá (played by Alan Rocha and Ailton Graça) and the cadavers than with his colleagues.
A study conducted to understand the Socio-Economic and Racial profile of Medical Students from a Public University in Rio showed that the majority of the students are white, from private schools, and financially supported by the family.
This study analyzed a particular university, but the reality in most of the country is the same. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, only 18% of the doctors are black or mixed, in a population of 56% of black or mixed ethnicity.
The profile of the Brazilian doctors is much closer to the characters of Suzana and Domingos. Doctors more similar to Maurício are much rarer in the country that often spread the lie of a Racial Democracy.
Tagged on IMDb only as a Drama, M-8 has many traits of a mystery thriller. The tension it causes is not overwhelming as I would like but is present in the whole movie. The suspense that often builds during Maurício’s search for M-8’s identity is marvelously executed.
However, the outcome of his investigation not always pays-off, but that’s okay. It’s a subversion of the audience’s expectations that I find compelling, but that can lead to frustration in some cases.
Talking about expectations: the ending really surprised me. Without revealing too much, it’s something it never even crossed my mind, and I liked it. Using a trendy internet term: It’s a very satisfying conclusion.
The characters are nice enough, but nothing too remarkable in general. My two favorites are Maurício and his mother, Cida. The first being a likable young character in development, getting out of adolescence and getting into adulthood.
Cida is perfectly crafted as a black mother who struggled to raise her kid while at the same time taking care of other people as a nurse. It’s a different type of care, but it still fits the role of a black woman in a racist society, caretaker of her own kids, and the rich white kids of others.
Mariana Nunes’s performance is also my favorite in the movie. She conveys a lot of emotion, always with extreme spontaneity. I also loved Tatiana Tibúrcio. She has a minor role but still awesome.
I didn’t like Juan Paiva and Giulia Gayoso as much as the two women I just mentioned, but their performances are marvelous nevertheless. These two are young and really promising. I already put more works from them on my watchlist and I hope to get to it soon.
The visual of the movie is perfect. It has really decent cinematography, even with a shot that immediately reminded me of City of God, with the same location and all.
The editing is where the movie left a little to be desired, with some awkward and abrupt cuts. For example, after one of the suspenseful moments during the investigation that I mentioned earlier, it cuts without giving the answer we were waiting for.
I didn’t expect to be spoonfed. The problem is that the cut is so abrupt and without indication of what happened that we are left wondering. We realize it was a lead that went nowhere because nothing changed in the status of the investigation.
I really liked how cleverly the score was used in the movie. It’s full of songs with lyrics related to the social issues brought up by the film. For some viewers, it might seem they’re just enjoying some rap music when, in fact, the lyrics are in complete accordance with the theme of the movie.
M-8 is an outstanding little gem that I’ve never heard of until I saw the preview on the streaming service. It’s has a great story, a beautiful appearance, and promising young actors that got me really excited. I’ll give M-8 — When Death Rescues Life 9 Moons.
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