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High Life

Year: 2018
Production Co: Alcatraz Films
Director: Claire Denis
Writer: Claire Denis/Jean-Pol Fargeau/Geoff Cox
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth

As I often do when I review a film I haven't remembered in enough detail, I had to read the Wikipedia entry's 'plot' section about this film, and the actual progression of events now makes a lot more sense. To be honest it made so little impact on me I hadn't even remembered how mixed up the chronology was, and even after reading a description of the plot in order I can't remember if there was a present day story interspersed with flashbacks or it was all just jumbled together.

It might have been the trouble I had following the chronology, or it might have been the ponderous pace, but it all left me very cold and wanting it to be over – a huge disappointment after how much I'd looked forward to it.

We start with an astronaut, Monte (Robert Pattinson) in the middle of a spacewalk and doing repairs while he talks via radio to a baby in a playpen somewhere on board, trying to calm its increasing distress. Soon after, he's carrying the dead bodies of what were apparently his crewmates to eject into space. The questions of why he's the only one left and why there's a baby immediately spark your interest, but the rest of the film is less interested in answering them than it is in moody acting and a glacial pace.

In short (or rather, yawn-inducingly long) order after that, we meet a doctor that's travelling with the other crew members, Dibs (Juliette Binoche) who apparently wants to artificially conceive a baby among them and is so obsessive about her quest it's bringing her mentally undone.

The other astronauts are a dishevelled group with their own dark motivations and connections, and if I hadn't known from advance chatter about the film they were all criminals on death row sent into space for some experiment, I don't think the movie would have made it at all clear.

They're also (again, this from Wikipedia, not the movie) investigating an alternate power source from a black hole, which explains why one of them takes off in a shuttle, as doomed as everyone else on the ship.

There are weird asides, sexual assaults, unexplained suicides, an identical ship they come across populated completely by dogs, and it all adds up to far less than the sum of its (admittedly well designed and well photographed) parts.

It's just all so dull and boring. As much cause as film fans have to complain about scripts that spoon feed every plot turn like we're idiots, the opposite problem is just as prevalent in indie film.

If you can't figure out what's going on in a movie without reading a plot summary online later to fully appreciate it, it's failed as a piece of storytelling. The themes of family bonds, loss and whatever else the script by director Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau and Geoff Cox were going for are buried far too deep under the morass.

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