The art of the short story has been lost somewhat. Once was the day when shorts and novellas were the jobbing author’s bread and butter. Printed media paid by the bucketload for any crazed sci-fi idea you could think of. Short stories were always about a single idea, a concept, a What If. And What If’s work great for movies. Almost the entire back catalogue of Philip K Dick shorts are now major motion pictures, and arguably the best Stephen King movies are based on his sub-tome efforts. So what do writers do with their What If ideas these days? Netflix of course (‘Netflix, you’re greenlit, who am I speaking with?’) or any of the thousands of VOD companies dying to make your What If a Well Hell, Let Me Tell You Then.

VOD production companies are the subscriber-only sci-fi monthlies of the 21st Century. You would never get the phrase What If past a marketing team these days though so let’s brand it High Concept, Cerebral, Show Burner. That sounds better. And what a selection of High concept, cerebral slow-burner creators we have had recently; Duncan Jones, Christopher Nolan, Charlie Brooker, and Alex Garland representing England while the Rest of the World line up with Bong Joon Ho, Denis Villeneuve, Neill Blomkamp, Alfonso Cuaron, Rian Johnson with JJ Abrams dropped to the bench for Rise of Skywalker. From those names alone, you can tell this is big business. So when a new high-concept’er comes our way, who are we to turn it down?

Adam Bird (D’Arcy) is a guy we can all sympathise with. Estranged from his wife for his on-line affair with an avatar (via a particularly disturbing haptic doll interface which makes the Hellraiser crew look snoggable), he only sees his kids via screens, the company he works for won’t take his advice about the upcoming end of VR. He still works during the day, going into an office, when the rest of humanity work from home and go out at night to avoid the deadly radiation of the sun. Oh, and his ticker is on the blink and he is dying. He is a man out of time if you will. But salvation is at hand, for his wife at least, thanks to Premium 3 – an insurance policy only available to the very few people with 3 or more children. When he dies, his wife has a replacement clone delivered, with additional requested upgrades.

Writer and director Guy Moshe seems to get a little confused about what message he wants to deliver here. What begins as an ode to the increased loneliness of those unwilling to buy into the latest social tech landscape, slips quickly into corporate mystery with the appearance of the underused Lindo as Donald Stein, father of the cloning process. This plot seems to disappear altogether to be replaced by a long dialogue-heavy essay about existentialism (is it a monologue when you’re chatting to your own clone?) and the relationship between man, tech and a mixture of the two.

It mostly works though, with solid performances from D’Arcy and Brewster and a generally well-informed and realistic outcome of where we going as a race today. The tech doesn’t feel overboard, most of the user interfaces are in concept form in the Valley already, and the special effects are minimal and seamless. It does fall foul of feeling like an overly long Black Mirror episode and comparisons to Her and Bladerunner are never going to do it any favours. But overall a film worth digging out when you’re flat out of high concept, cerebral slow burners.

Dir: Guy Moshe

Scr: Guy Moshe

Cast: James D’Arcy, Anna Brewster, Delroy Lindo

Prd: Matthew G. Zamias, Linas Pozera, Pedro Tarantino Pimentel, Guy Moshe, Karolis Malinauskas

Music: Sarah DeCourcy, Erez Moshe, Ian Richter

DOP: Thomas Buelens    

Country: USA

Year: 2020

Run Time: 108 Minutes

LX 2048 Premieres in Virtual Cinemas and North American VOD 25th Sept

 

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