Watching Virus Tropical feels like flipping through the pages of a graphic novel. And it’s this similarity to the source material that holds the picture back from being a good film.
Virus Tropical is a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Paola (María Cecilia Sánchez). We follow Paola from the night of her conception until she grows up and strikes out on her own. And we watch her deal with childhood angst and family drama all along the way.
Films, music, comic books, video games and novels each offer unique ways for artists to share stories. Novels excel at sharing each character’s thoughts and motivations. And video games put a controller in the user’s hands, giving them a sense of agency in their story. We call movies motion pictures for a reason. They combine photography, sound, movement, and editing to create experiences unique to the medium. When a storyteller decides to tell their story in a movie, rather than in a book or a podcast, it should be because the medium is best suited to getting their message across. Film isn’t this story’s ideal medium.
Virus Tropical may be a great graphic novel, but it’s a lacking film. It fails to utilize cinematic language to engage the audience. The film tracks like someone animated each page of the graphic novel. The problem here is that reading a graphic novel is a profoundly personal experience. Watching one play out onscreen isn’t.
As we scan from panel to panel, we project onto the characters, and our minds fill in the narrative gaps. This film’s story races from moment to moment before we get our bearings and makes significant scenes feel underserved. Virus Tropical’s message is on point, but its story and themes lack the emotional weight to resonate.