While audiences, myself included, often revel at the dazzling visual displays in $100 million blockbusters, if those films were stripped of their budget, what would they look like? The answer is OtherLife. This is a movie high in concept. Its general premise would imply a more lenient budget way into the millions, but it’s a film without it. Not every director is afforded that luxury, and they shouldn’t have to be. Director Ben C. Lucas finds a way around his apparent restraints, creating a small-scale indie film disguised as a modern day blockbuster. Every dollar has been put to use, bringing this daring and original story to life.
Except, complications arise when the company she works for, and her business partner Sam (T.J. Power) see an alternate use for the drug. It doesn’t have to be just another VR experience. There’s potential for so much more, including using the drug as a sort of solitary confinement for first time offenders, where they can experience years worth of sentences in the span of a couple of minutes. Ren and Sam collide. Their business mottos differ. And soon, through unseen circumstances, Ren finds herself trapped inside her mind, living her life in solitary confinement. She needs to figure out an escape before madness consumes her and her business is lost forever.
It’s these characters that take you on the journey, and you’re with them every step of the way. Ren Amari is a complicated, down on her luck protagonist with clear motives and a justifiable reasoning for the way she acts. Her colleagues may not agree with her methods, but she gets the job done, and her personal narrative is full of intrigue and despair. You find yourself connecting with her, and you feel her pain when the going gets rough, or, more accurately, rougher than it already is. De Gouw is fantastic. Everyone in the film feels mostly serviceable (Thomas Cocquerel is pretty great), however it’s De Gouw who takes centre stage with the best role in the film.
OtherLife is a film full of ideas. They don’t all mesh as well as I would’ve liked, but the ideas in their own right are fascinating and conversation starters. It’s really great just to see an Australian sci-fi film as sophisticated, original and stressful to watch as this one. A post-screening Q&A with the filmmakers gave an insight look into how much time and effort was spent on this movie, and having watched it, everything they tried to pull off feels as if it were done with ease.
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