Year 2041. For women, life is a struggle like never before. A single mother makes an impossible and fateful decision to secure her daughter’s future.
I watched this last night when it popped up on Netflix and loved it. I hadn’t heard of it before, and the description above was all I knew about it. If you like small, low budget sci-fi films like Ex Machina, Primer, Predestination, The Machine, Moon, Never Let Me Go, I Origins, and Children of Men then you’re sure to enjoy this. Like those, it uses a futuristic sci-fi premise as a means to address current societal concerns as well as deeper philosophical issues about what it means to be human and alive. Unlike those, it approaches all of this from an entirely female perspective.
You hear about films being funded on Kickstarter now, and this one is the best argument yet I’ve seen for doing it that way. Director/writer Jennifer Phang (Half-Light) tells a tight, quiet, cohesive, delibrately paced, cerebral story on a miniscule budget. Ideally of course, she wouldn’t have had to do it this way, but that’s not the current reality. The theatrical release for this will be next to non-existent and earn no real money. However, after gaining attention at Sundance this year and being picked up by Netflix this film stands a chance of demonstrating that there is an audience for stories like this which would benefit countless other films and filmmakers waiting in the wings for their chance. That in turn benefits us all.
The acting is great across the board. With the exception of Ken Jeong (in a very un-Ken Jeong-like role and who also produced) you probably won’t recognize many of the actor’s names, but you will most certainly recognize their faces. Jaqueline Kim (Charlotte Sometimes, Brokedown Palace, Star Trek: Generations) not only co-wrote the film with Phang, but also gives a quietly powerful and nuanced performance as Gwen Koh, the mother. Her daughter is played by newcomer Samantha Kim with a depth beyond her years. And hardcore veterans James Urbaniak (American Splendor, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Dr. Venture in The Venture Bros.) and Jennifer Ehle (The King’s Speech, Zero Dark Thirty, Sunshine, The Adjustment Beureau and Contagion) are both fantastic as Gwen’s superiors with possible ulterior motives. Lastly, Freya Adams does a magnificent job with a unique role that I don’t want to give away here.
As you all know I’m a huge fan of scores/soundtracks, and this one by Timo Chen sets the tone throughout perfectly. I sat all the way through the credits just to keep hearing what he’d created. Hopefully this gets a release. It’s a haunting electronic masterpiece of a score that quietly, in an almost wispy fashion swirls like smoke connecting the scenes to each other.