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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