#REVIEW: “HIGH LIFE”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
We first meet Monte (Robert Pattinson in an award-worthy performance) gently attending to his baby daughter. Shot in close-ups, it is heartwarming but we see a mixture of deep love and fear in Monte’s eyes and quickly learn that they are the last survivors on a mission in outer space. We see him dress the dead crew members in spacesuits and throw them one by one off the space craft. As the bodies float in the twinkling darkness, the credit HIGH LIFE appears on screen and, as imagined by acclaimed French Director Claire Denis, it is a voyage that one has rarely experienced.
We learn that the crew was comprised of death row inmates who volunteered to go to space on an 8 year suicide mission to a black hole to study human fertility and reproduction as a component to Earth’s survival. They are tended to by the ship’s Dr. Dibs who dispenses medications and collects bodily fluids from the crew with Nurse Ratched efficiency and demeanour. As played by the incomparable Juliette Binoche in a Morticia Addams fright wig of long flowing black hair that she maintains religiously, it is a complex performance of breath-taking magnitude. She is as dark as the spaceship they live in. This is not a craft as imagined by Lucas or Roddenberry but appears more like a huge Costco square storage bin with the interior being grey and dull and prison-like. In a series of flashbacks, we learn about the situations of the crew members and the crimes they committed. We efficiently know their back stories and how each one perished on board.
For a Movie where one of the central themes is about human sexuality, HIGH LIFE is intensely unsexy. The true revelation in HIGH LIFE is Robert Pattinson. Described succinctly by Director Claire Denis as a “Russian nesting doll” his performance in this Movie is nuanced as different layers of his character becomes exposed. It is complex and compelling.
HIGH LIFE may be divisive and challenging. Its dark tone and languid pacing is unlike any movie set in space. I was hypnotized within minutes. Not every question will be answered or situations explained fully, but it is a movie of magnificent manipulations and I was thunderstruck throughout its almost two-hour running time. HIGH LIFE will undoubtedly be on my Top Ten List of Movies released in 2019.
Elevation Pictures release HIGH LIFE Friday, April 19, 2019.