People are spending more time online and at home more than ever nowadays. Whether it be for school, work, or socializing, almost nobody – at least in the United States – has been doing anything in person, which makes the latest VOD release, LX 2048, feel more relevant than ever.
Written and directed by Guy Moshe in his virtual theatrical and North American digital debut, LX 2048 takes place in the not too distant future of 2048, in which humanity has destroyed the ozone layer to such a degree that normal humans cannot go out in the daytime. Instead, the majority of humans conduct their work, school, and social affairs from home in the virtual realm. Adam Bird, however, is the rare individual who not only insists on leaving his house and going to work in the day time to a physical office, has 3 children when most people barely have one, and refuses to take his state issued 001LithiumX medication. All of this changes when Adam discovers his heart is failing. With no hope of getting an organ transplant, Adam hopes to find a solution before he is replaced by an upgraded clone of himself that will be sent to his estranged wife and children.
The film stars James D’Arcy (Dunkirk, “Broadchurch”, Marvel’s “Agent Carter”) as Adam Bird, whose performance was one of the highlights for me as a man tormented by his collapsing heart, and desire to reconnect with his wife, Reena. Another great performance comes from Delroy Lindo (Malcom X, Da 5 Bloods, “The Good Fight”) with one or two standout scenes that gave him some good comedic as well as emotional moments. Anna Brewster (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, “Versaillies) as Reena Bird did a great job with what she had, though she felt limited to some capacity, especially in the scenes between her and Adam which at times are effective, but more often than not feature stilted blocking and some very on the nose dialogue.
James D’Arcy was definitely the most compelling performance wise, especially with his ability to balance Adam’s emotional breakdown, as well as some of the darkly humorous/absurd moments of the film – especially with a sequence in the third act. In the context of the story-world, I think Adam Bird was a very well developed and wise choice to be the protagonist, but even he suffers from one or two confusing characterizations, particularly involving Gabrielle Cassi’s character. While their relationship does help highlight Adam’s loneliness, it does somewhat contradict what else we’ve seen from this character and his relationship with technology.
This goes to one of the films greatest strengths: world-building. Especially in today’s context, this world feels more than possible. It’s not just that everything is virtual, but also the fact that mental depression is so prevalent in this world, that the entire state is responsible for taking 001LithiumX, a medication, which really speaks to how much technology and virtual interactions have impacted our mental health, and I think that’s such a clever detail. Another huge part of this story is cloning and the idea that when people die, they can not only be replaced, but also modified to become a “better” version of themself. While this is certainly more far fetched for the year the film takes place, I think it helped emphasize how replaceable people are in this world, and how functional and robotic everyone’s existence is. There’s so many other details of this world that I didn’t even mention. It makes this world feel both quite possible but also very lived in.
This, however, leads me to some of my biggest critiques that ultimately prevent this from being a really compelling science fiction family drama. I mentioned the dialogue, which is well written for the more expositional scenes; particularly in the scene where Adam finds out about his heart condition, in the scenes between Lindo and D’Arcy’s characters, and in the final third act confrontation. It is the dialogue in scenes that are meant to be more emotional that feel more stilted and underdeveloped. The scenes between Reean and Adam were the most egregious of these moments. It was really difficult for me to latch on or care about their relationship. One of the most effective moments was Reena reacting to Adam’s confession about something. There was no dialogue, but you could read every emotion on Reena’s face. I think if there were moments like that which could’ve helped flesh out their relationship.
Another issue was that because the filmmakers have developed such a compelling world, they unfortunately shoved so many of these world-building elements into the story that the narrative itself became so unfocused that it made lots of the ideas feel both spelled out and entirely unclear at the same time. This lack of narrative and thematic focus shines through especially in a scene when something from the virtual world comes to life. It’s an element of the story that was introduced earlier but brings the story and the protagonist to a complete halt. It also makes Adam’s goal/objective all the more muddled and confused. The final moments of the film I also don’t think have the thematic and emotional resonance I think it could’ve because the film is trying to juggle all these science fiction elements that the audience isn’t sure what to latch on to or think about when it’s all said and done.
Verdict: 2.5 out of 5
Overall, LX 2048 has a lot of great things to offer, but it is unfortunately held back by some confusing characterizations, weak and over expositional dialogue, and an overstuffed plot that ultimately make the protagonist’s journey feel confusing and muddled. Despite these flaws, the film does have some exceptional worl-dbuilding, some of which feels more relevant and possible than ever. Round that out with a great lead performance from James D’Arcy, a well balanced darkly comedic/dramatic tone, and some thought-provoking science fiction ideas, and you got yourself a film that may not satisfy on all fronts, but certainly carries enough unique ideas and moments to keep you invested. If anything, it certainly left me wanting to see what Guy Moshe will do next.