12 months of Kai [2021] [sci-fi-london.com]

“Begin setup…”


Sci Fi London 2021 is over! Just catching up now on posting about the last two feature films I saw. I had such a great time and I thank all of the writers, directors, actors, as well as Louis, Marta and the Sci Fi London crew for putting on such a great festival. The standard of films was so great and it was lovely to be able to see everyone in person.

Sci Fi London will return next year to its usual time of year (late spring/early summer). Look out there for more.

Directed by Matsumi Kameyama, 12 months of Kai is the story of the relationship between a human and an android. Kyoka, played by Ayaka Kawaguchi, lives in Tokyo and meets with her friends for coffee. It’s clear from the start that there is pressure on them all to be with someone, as they talk about potential boyfriends and husbands, even stopping to make eyes at the coffee shop dude which was a pretty humorous moment. Kyoka lives alone and it seems like her work is pretty much her life, so it’s not all that surprising when she decides to purchase/rent a ‘Personal Care Humanoid’ to take care of her needs. The humanoid, played by Kosei Kudo, arrives and is every bit as flawless and gorgeous as you can imagine. Kyoka begins setup and names the humanoid Kai. Meanwhile, she continues to date and her owning a PCH is met with horror from both her prospective partners and her friends who think Kyoka is wasting her time being with someone who cannot father her a child. Kyoka seems to genuinely care for Kai and Kai struggles with concepts of the future but otherwise seems pretty content. There are some uncomfortable moments when Kyoka’s mother comes to see her and later tells her she has cancer – which we find out later is a lie. Soon, we discover that Kai is pregnant …DUN DUN DUHHHHHHH and she informs her friends and family who are shocked and dismayed and encourage her to have an abortion. She decides to keep the baby and informs the corporation who created Kai which reveals to us that this has all been an experimental plot and that Kai is working exactly the way he was programmed to behave. Kyoka has the baby, which ends up looking Borg-esque. Kyoka is obviously super depressed and disgusted by herself and this baby, and tries to destroy it but is stopped by Kai. The corporation then moves in and drugs her and takes the baby from her. She awakes in this moodily lit room watched by a humanoid who asks her to set it up, to which she says “Begin setup” and the whole process starts all over again.

Oooooh, thinking about that ending gives me chills.

Enjoyed this one. Despite the low budget, the lighting in some scenes made the film glorious.

I could really feel the pressures on Kai in this one. It was like everyone from all angles was up in her bizness, telling her to find a REAL MAN but Kyoka seemed quite content with Kai. Her needs were pretty basic. She wasn’t looking for a kid. She was pretty content talking to Kai and could dismiss questions she didn’t want to talk about… which is pretty easy living if you think about it. How many relationships have you been in where there was something you didn’t want to talk about for whatever reason and your partner just let it go? It doesn’t really happen, at least not in my experience so I guess that’s why the relationship seemed so peaceful… haha.. but obviously nothing lasts forever. Kyoka found herself in unchartered territories where she didn’t know what to do. Her friends were split between being astonished and telling her to get rid of this baby. Her mother was complete trash. She lied about having cancer, or at least Kai said that she had. You could potentially read into that and suspect Kai is trying to pull Kyoka away from her support mechanisms and the loves in her life as it is Kai who tells her that her mother lied to her, but I couldn’t be sure. Whatever Kai’s intention, he lets it go and you never hear about it again. It probably contributes to Kyoka feeling like she really had no one to turn to by the end of the film, which contributes to her resigning herself to starting the whole process again. It really had me asking WHAT IS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND KYOKA?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO YOURSELF AGAINNNNN?!?!?!

One cool thing I noticed about the film, was that Kai’s scenes were filmed with the actor keeping his eyelids open the whole time… which I would not have even clocked had I not heard this cool factoid about the film ‘Scott Pilgrim v the world’ the same weekend, in that the actors in their scenes were instructed to not blink while on camera, and that was to mirror the comic in which obviously none of the characters blink on the panels. The effect that had on the Scott Pilgrim film, and on this particular film is that there is a strange intensity about the character. It’s almost like that sensation the ‘uncanny valley’ where you see a human-like animation and it’s so close to real life but your brain is looking at the resemblance and trying to tear it apart.

Anyway, there’s not really much to say about this film so I’ll leave it there, but it was a strange but enjoyable concept. Well acted. The baby was particularly gruesome which shocked a lot of the people watching including myself, which I enjoyed! Really appreciate that the director came all the way from Japan to talk about the film as well and answer my question about the blinking(!) and it seemed like the writing of the concept was a very collaborative process which I love to hear.

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Repeat [2021] [sci-fi-london.com]

“Where do we go when we die”


Directed by Grant Archer and Richard Miller, this film ponders the almighty question; What happens after we die?

I wasn’t originally planning on seeing this film but I was unfortunately ill and couldn’t see Exposure36 so I decided to come out to this one to get my sciencey fill!

So… Repeat!! In this film, scientist Ryan Moore played by Tom England, works for the research department at a university. While attempting to create tech that can interpret thoughts he stumbles across an altogether different invention which he believes allows him to reach people BEYOND THE VEILLLLL. We see him testing this tech on various people who had recently lost their loved ones. The tech itself looks like a selfie light wrapped in copper wire, connected to an old computer with the DNA slot looking like a CD drive, which I really love by the way. It’s pretty well known by pals that I happen to really enjoy sci-fi where the Tech looks like it is made out of vacuum parts so I enjoy tech that looks very DIY. Anyways. I digress. We soon learn that Ryan and his wife Emily, played by Charlotte Ritchie, have also lost someone dear to them, their young daughter Sam. It’s unclear what happened and the story leads us to believe that she was abducted by a hooded man after school. The loss has clearly put a massive strain on the relationship, and various attempts to tackle their problems head on are pushed under the mat.

Ryan becomes increasingly more intense and obsessed as the police investigation runs dry. With no leads, he takes it upon himself to investigate teachers and friends and ends up alienating them all forcing him into an even bigger introspective spiral. He hopes to make contact with Rebecca but each attempt fails. One day he finds that Emily has swabbed her DNA with the intent to use the machine to try to make contact (she stops short of actually doing so). Ryan continues and manages to make contact discovering that his child is indeed dead. Troubled by this discovery and after he temporarily manages to manifest her using the machine, he boosts the machine and finds himself transported to the day Sam disappeared. He tries to prevent her from being taken when she suddenly disappears and we learn **MASSIVE SPOILER** that the machine does not talk to the dead but to people sleeping and inadvertently kills those it makes contact with. The weight of this discovery is palpable. Ryan attempts to send a message to his computer in the past only for that message to start the loop all over again!

I enjoyed this one. The film had plenty red herrings baked into the story that made you think you were being taken in various directions only to end up somewhere completely different. It was really interesting being able to attend the Q&A because the director/writer spoke of just that in the writing process; that he had intended for the film to be a lighthearted ghostbusters-esque jaunt, but creativity had a different path in mind for him. Anyways, it would have been all too easy for the cause of Sam’s disappearance to have been the ominous hooded figure. Also, I really enjoyed the fact that we all thought we were watching a film about life after death and instead we were slapped in the face with IT WAS A TIME TRAVEL FILM ALL ALONGGGGGGG **SLAP SLAP SLAP**

The science/tech side of things felt like the right tone. You know, how scientists create new inventions in their basements… It’s murky and thrown together and a complete mess, all the while the scientist is telling you “IT’S COMPLETELY SAFE” when you know they have no idea what they’re doing. There were some laughable moments like that in this film where Ryan is asking these people, and by extension those of us watching the film, to trust him and for the most part we do. And then we learn that we really shouldn’t trust him. That he is stabbing in the dark, that this invention of his is actually killing him.. that his morality is totally called into question and fails, that he is stealing an unknown, radioactive chemical from the same university who are funding and trusting him in order to power this invention of his… and then there’s the moment where he intensely interrogates a teenage girl – the friend of his daughter – and when she doesn’t tell him what he wants to hear he starts to manhandle her and shouts at her I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. I had to laugh at that point. Like no wonder she’s running from you, dude. Take it down a fricking notch! At no point does he recognise just how lost he is and that his attitude and this invention of his is hurting people. Even at the very end, his instinct is to use the machine to better this situation he has found himself in, the irony being that if he had taken a moment to really criticise himself, he would have realised that he is the cause of all his and his family’s pain. I was really hoping that Ryan would try to make contact with his past self and in doing so, would kill himself and save his and so many other’s lives, or to destroy the machine thus doing the same, but then it would not have looped so cleverly. So I’m willing to accept the discomfort and annoyance I feel towards the choices Ryan has ultimately made for a cool ending. Ryan really, truly believes that his invention could be used for good and can’t help himself; that was his undoing ultimately because it totally screwed him. I guess in hindsight, he never could help himself, and never will!

There’s a sub-storyline in there about who the real father of Sam is, but even though it’s this shocking elephant in the room that is hinted when Emily uses the DNA swab and then doesn’t get mentioned until much later, it’s not really important to the plot. To him, Ryan is Sam’s father and nothing will change that (which I think is really sweet). And again, it’s just a red herring to confuse the viewer anyways.

So all in all, liked the plot and the twisty turns. Interesting mish-mash of sci fi films (mixing life after death with time travel) and I think the causality was smartly done. Found it hard to suspend my disbelief looking at the invention, but I kinda loved that I knew what the component parts were. Enjoyable performances and some familiar faces. Enjoyed watching this one.

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Warning [2021] [opening night @ sci-fi-london.com]

“Can you really put a value on human life?”


Hurray Sci Fi London 2021 is here! A week long of curated short and feature length films, hosted by Sci-Fi-London.com at Stratford Picturehouse in London! I was honoured to have been invited by Louis, Marta and the team to opening night and I’m looking forward to checking out what else the week unfolds! Come watchalong with me. I’ll be seeing the following so come say hi:

Really wish I could see more but unfortunately I can’t this time. I’m gonna try and catch some of the shorts. Louis – the founder of the festival – recommended ‘The Scent of a Forest’ (directed by Servaes Dewispelaere) which the team voted as their fave short of this year’s lot so if nothing else, be sure to check that out and let me know what you think!

So, back to WARNING!

Warning, directed by Agata Alexander, starts out from the onset with a mechanic astronaut who is set on a personal path of disaster when the tech he has been sent to fix explodes, hurtling him into nothingness. He is given days to live.

Meanwhile on earth we touch on the stories, humanity and inhumanity of current life on earth. We see a woman who is released from the routine of her Alexa-esque connection to God 2.0 when one day it malfunctions and she is forced to continue her spiritual journey alone. There’s a teenage girl who hopes to make a bunch of money for a better life by allowing a random stranger to invade her consciousness for just a weekend which ends up taking a very dark turn. There’s a seemingly young couple meeting the fam for the first time, and we soon discover that the man in the couple is immortal while she is not. The mother does not approve. There’s the story of an elderly robot who cannot be sold, and we see a sliver of humanity in it as it dances with another robot/android, shrouded behind a curtain. There’s the guy who just can’t let the past stay in the past, much to the horror of his ex girlfriend. And a small child, looking to the sky, wishing her father home.

I thought it was a wonderful start to the festival. I wondered about the title of the film.. warning. Could the astronaut have warned people of what was to come? It felt like he could not have, which makes it all the more tragic. That he had to sit and watch it unfold. I imagined his death as he ran out of oxygen all alone in the vastness of space wondering if he could have done something. Was it our choices that should have served as a warning? That we were on a path of destruction? No. It appeared inevitable. That regardless of the choices the characters would have made, they were bound by the exact same fate. It amused me at least that the immortal elite were seemingly also bound by this and I thought to myself, they cannot buy themselves out of this quandary.

I noticed these images throughout of this sort of sterile, sanctioned life… Beautiful flowers covered with bugs living in little sealed greenhouses or cages in peoples home, almost like little reminders of life among perfect homes with perfect wallpaper of plants.

Each mini story could honestly have been a movie in itself and I think it was in the section on mortality where something was said that resonated for me in this film. That immortality makes life less precious and I think in some way that is true of this film. Sure. Each section could have been entire films, but it was the miniature nature of these different stories that ended up making this film so precious. All these small hints of life woven into an untidy, tragic story about the end of days. Of love and loss. Of a desire to connect in a modern time.

I think the main takeaway I had and perhaps this was the purpose of the film, is that it is itself a warning. How would you act? How would you wish to spend your last days on earth if you had a warning? With greed? Living in the past? With hope? With a loved one? Alone? Helpless? Would you have made different choices? What would make your life more meaningful?

So all in all, I thought this film was poetic. It managed to somehow pull off chaotic and tidy all at once. There were some pretty famous actors in the mix which was quite surprising to see. Overall enjoyed it and loved that the concept had me thinking for hours after I left the cinema. Would recommend checking it out!

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