I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for films about internalizing emotions. It’s an extraordinarily difficult thing to portray on-screen in a visually engaging manner, and even when a piece of content isn’t entirely successful with this endeavor, I can still appreciate the effort that goes into it.
Such is the case with planet b234, a metaphysical story about a Latino father, Jorge (played by Jorge Luna, previously seen in Netflix’s The Week Of) who is dealing with the fact that, due to varying circumstances, he lives thousands of miles away from his son. After his son, Otto (played by Luna’s real-life son, also named Otto) visits him, Jorge delves into a fantastical world of his own creation as a method of coping with the separation. Over the course of the film, he slowly becomes more ingrained into what he calls planet b234.
Perhaps selfishly, I expected this film to be more science fiction-leaning and fantasy-oriented than it actually is. Rooted primarily in a quasi-reality, planet b234 focuses more on the text conversations between father and son, many of which end with a small argument or mixed messages. As Jorge gets deeper and deeper into his own imagination, the texts begin to take physical form, whether that be words on the wall or three giant, bouncing dots to signal that the other person is texting. At a certain point, these manifestations of their conversation become almost larger than life, which is how some text exchanges feel; after all, conveying tone and meaning in a brief written sentence can be difficult, and it’s easy to misconstrue or misinterpret.
planet b234 is almost never clear about what is real and what isn’t, which raises several questions that I never found the answers to. Perhaps it’s meant to be vague and mysterious, but I was never positive if the story was being told non-linearly or if all of Jorge’s physical interactions with his son were conjured up by his fervently overworked mind. I suppose, much like Jorge’s planet b234, the actual mechanics of the story are left up to our imaginations. The film goes beyond leaving it up to the audience’s interpretation — instead, there are so many questions that even fabricating an explanation is a hard ask.
Nevertheless, I will admit I tend to love films about fathers and sons, and the relationship between the two. I will cry every single time I watch About Time, and Liam Neeson and Thomas Sangster’s storyline in Love, Actually is one of my favorites. planet b234 never quite reaches those heights, electing for a more experimental outlook on a long-distance relationship in which both parties are becoming increasingly distant — and when it comes to Jorge, he is distancing himself from reality itself. I just wish it had committed a bit more to its psychology and fantasy; ironically, that may have made it a more cohesive film.