High Tide (2024) ‘SXSW’ Movie Review: Gorgeous, soothing waves cascade on an empty beach, where a young man strips frantically and plunges into the ocean, visibly distressed. The beauty of this place, Provincetown, Massachusetts, is akin to paradise — however, beneath the warm summer sun, Lourenço (Marco Pigossi) simmers with melancholic discontent. A Brazilian immigrant whose tourist visa expires shortly, Lourenço desperately hopes he can linger in this haven, the only place he feels like he belongs to in more ways than one. Patiently awaiting the return of his lover, Joe (to whom he leaves many unanswered voicemails), Lourenço discreetly cleans local rentals to get by while living in a quaint little house leased by Scott (Bill Irwin), an older gay man and a friend of Joe’s, who often invites Lourenço for dinners filled with tender reminiscences about the past.

This is the heart of Marco Calvani’s “High Tide,” an intimate queer drama about a man in the process of reconciling with his contrapuntal identities, a sentiment that is tethered by Oswald de Andrade’s poem, “Song of Going Home:”

“My land has more roses
And almost more lovers
My land has more gold
My land has more land
Gold land love and roses
I want everything my land has
God don’t let me die
Before going back home.”

There’s a contrarian impulse in Lourenço’s quest for fulfillment: this excerpt from Andrade’s poem looms throughout, but his innermost desires do not culminate in traditional homecoming but the act of feeling at home in a distant land. It is almost as if Provincetown has “more roses, and almost more lovers,” a revelation come-true when Lourenço meets the tender-hearted Maurice (James Bland), who immediately expresses his interest and forges a connection with him that feels ephemeral but rare. A Black nurse from Queens who has secured a residency in Angola, Maurice gently makes it clear that he is just here till the weekend — which immediately brands the relationship with impermanence — but opens the floodgates for a queer reawakening that alters Lourenço’s perception of himself and the world around him.

Calvani lingers on the sweet gaze between the lovers when they bare their souls to one another, a kind of unraveling that brings their respective fears and traumas to the surface. While Maurice has to continuously contend with overt and subtle racism in his homeland, Lourenço’s religious upbringing haunts him with deeply instilled concepts of sin and salvation, making it impossible for him to declare his queerness to his mother. He does not have to, as long as he finds acceptance that soothes him, but the fact that he had to lie to escape the clutches of the binary attitudes in his place of birth underlines the raging turmoil within him.

A still from High Tide (2024).
A still from “High Tide” (2024).

The vulnerability between Lourenço and Maurice imbues the latter with hope: hope that he can keep swimming in the beautiful waters and settle into the rhythm of the rustic town. However, pockets of ugliness persist, be it in the way a man coerces Lourenço during a hookup or how the privileged gay lawyer Todd (Bryan Batt) preys on him under the guise of helping him with his visa (while spewing problematic notions about the LGBTQIA+ community over dinner). These violations, coupled with some uncomfortable revelations about his personal life, break Lourenço completely, reaffirming his conviction that his life was happening somewhere else without him ever having the luxury to participate.

The thematic, tonal shifts in Calvani’s debut do not always cohere, as some portions often feel too distended or tacked on. However, the reason “High Tide” emerges as an evocative tale is Pigossi’s engrossing performance, conveyed through bloodshot eyes and trembling sensitivity, where he oscillates between comforting solitude and maddening loneliness. There are moments of acceptance in between when he is tangled in the arms of Maurice or is gently held by Scott, who, despite his occasional hangups, wishes to cultivate a sense of home for him. When Lourenço grieves the inevitable goodbyes that must cruelly tread on his dreams, “High Tide” feels painfully visceral, holding up a mirror to uncertain futures and torrid pasts that make the present feel hellish despite its moments of beauty.

Is there still hope to cling on to? This is the question that Lourenço must mire in, and the answers come in the form of many a kind soul, including Marisa Tomei’s Miriam, an artist who exudes warmth and vibrancy amid turmoil. Although Miriam’s presence is fleeting, her words instill a sense of purpose in Lourenço: what is love but a means to unlock the colors within our souls? Even in the absence of a lover, this newfound awakening can be nourished or sustained — not through magical fix-em-alls but thoughtful introspections that lead to self-discoveries and the plunging of new depths one thought never existed before.

By the time “High Tide” inches towards its finish, all of its rocky unevenness feels leveled out, anchored by Pigossi’s Lourenço, who must persevere and carve out his path forward. There are no grand declarations or dramatic flourishes here, but a quiet reassurance that feels sincere enough — which makes all the difference in the world.

High Tide premiered at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival.

High Tide (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, SXSW
High Tide (2024) Movie Cast: Marco Pigossi, James Bland, Marisa Tomei, Bill Irwin, Mya Taylor, Sean Mahon
High Tide (2024) Movie Genre: Drama, Romance | Runtime: 1h 41 Mins

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