Week 2 in Feminist February and another female written/directed/predominantly female character driven gem (hopefully). And this one is Sci-fi too.
This film has been on my Netflix list for a while now and I’m pretty happy I’ve been able to bring it out for this occasion.
As always *Spoilers Ahead*
IMDB Synopsis: In a near-future city where soaring opulence overshadows economic hardship, Gwen and her daughter Jules do all they can to hold on to their joy together, despite the instability surfacing in their world.
Gwen is a highly accomplished woman working for the Center For Advanced Health And Living, under her deserved pay grade. Not only does she work there, she is also the ‘face’ of the brand, selling cosmetic procedures to those who can afford it.
Despite her outward appearance of poise and affluence, it soon becomes apparent that Gwen is struggling financially to provide a solid future for her young daughter, Jules (Samantha Kim).
Unfortunately, Gwen is fired from her job which makes the whole situation way worse. But it’s cool though right? I mean a woman like Gwen would never have issues with re-employment even in this precarious economic climate. WRONG.
Gwen is considered ‘too old’ and has seemingly run out of employment options, unless she wants to set herself up as an egg donor (women in this near-future are rapidly becoming infertile). This doesn’t appeal but she’s starting to get desperate in the face of such uncertainty. Particularly as she’s trying to get Jules into an elite school.
When the school (run by snooty lady gatekeepers with fabulous outfits) learn that Gwen is raising Jules alone, they urge her to reach out to Jules’ father for financial assistance but this isn’t an option. Gwen contacts her parents instead and asks for help getting through the next month. Gwen’s mother is easily convinced but it seems Gwen’s relationship with her father is another matter and they decline to lend her the money. This comes after she’s refused to let her father meet Jules.
Amidst all the drama of her predicament, Gwen also has to be a mother to Jules, who is suffering a crisis of confidence after she doesn’t get into her first choice of school. She ponders what the point of her life is. Gwen assures her that there is plenty to live for and admits that she used to ask herself the same question.
Gwen returns to her old employers, who include her former lover Fisher and asks them to consider using her as a test patient for a brand new procedure. This involves transferring her subconscious into a new body. In this case Gwen understands that the body will be younger. It turns out Marketing also want someone ‘racially ambiguous’ too.
Fisher tries to persuade Gwen to reconsider (because he still totes loves the shit out of her), warning her of the painful side effects and the fact that their technology isn’t quite there yet but the promise of Jules’ secure future (to be ensured by the institute) is enough for Gwen to agree anyway. She tells Fisher she wants to spend Christmas with her daughter before the procedure.
During this time she has to explain her decision to Jules, who is surprisingly understanding, even visiting the centre with Gwen to see her new body.
As a last ditch attempt to get some help and avoid the procedure, Gwen visits her cousin Lily (Jennifer Ikeda), who’s been trying to reach out to her through as series of voice mails throughout the film. Lily is married to Han (Ken Jeong) and they have two young sons.
I don’t want to completely ruin things for you but some truth nuggets emerge from this meeting, pertaining to Jule’s origin and the relationship between the cousins. It remains unseen at this point whether or not the couple will help Gwen and Jules.
Gwen sees no way out of the procedure and goes through with it. Things initially look okay and Gwen begins to acclimatise to her new body and face. She continues to be the very best spokeswoman she can be, with even more to offer as she can now wax lyrical about this incredible new technology but all is not as it seems and her relationship with her daughter begins to show signs of pressure.
I’m parking up here because I loved this movie, found it heartbreaking and disturbing on many levels and want to cry just writing this. Please note this review may be shorter than usual just simply because I think you should watch for yourself.
To the Questions!
Will Gwen and Jules be okay? Will Lily and Han come through for them in their hour of need or is it too late? Will Jules make the elite? How will Gwen 2.0 settle in and will she ever rebuild her relationship with her raison d’être?
Also, where can I sign up for a face like Cara Delevingne’s? (Or at least those brows).
This movie is devastating.
Beautiful, seriously well acted and just devastating. I want to skip work, stay home and watch it all over again. Not only does it deal with the topics of ageism and sexism, it also examines the ideal of beauty, motherhood and the pressures of being a woman in general.
There’s a horribly sad part in which Gwen and Jules play a ‘game’ in which Jules must guess where the sound of a crying woman is coming from. She carefully pricks her ears and then bends to listen through the floor before determining that the crying is coming from the apartments above and below. The women aren’t being cruel, this is just another element of their day to day, and part of life as a woman.
Jacqueline Kim is really great, painting Gwen as a warm and loving mother. She also makes Gwen a very intriguing and sympathetic woman. One of Jules’ friends, on seeing Gwen for the first time, proclaims that “She doesn’t even look like a mother!” which was amusing. She is attractive and together; a mother, business woman and everything in between.
She also makes this huge decision to change just as hard on the viewer and conveys her inner-turmoil with ease, she is such a good actress. Samantha Kim as Jules is also a marvel and their chemistry is the beating heart of the film, without it, the viewer would not be left so heartbroken in the end.
There’s so much to say about this but I’m scared to give too much away. Just watch it yourself, promise?
Oh and it looks really good too. The futuristic landscapre is awe-inspiring and ever present, though the architecture easily plays second fiddle to our main protagonists and that’s a feat in itself. Go see.
My Rating: 5/5. Excellent.