Directed by: Noah Hutton | 108 minutes | drama, thriller | Actors: Dean Imperial, Madeline Wise, Babe Howard, Ivory Aquino, Dora Madison, James McDaniel, Frank Wood, Arliss Howard, Violet Adams, Jason Babinsky, Kim Blacklock, Alex Breaux, Beau Davidson, Caroline Duncan, Sam Gilroy
With ever-increasing technological developments, it is difficult to estimate what our life will look like in the near future. Will we soon be able to clone deceased loved ones so that they live on virtually? Will someone’s social status be determined by how many points or likes he or she earns online? These not so far-fetched visions of the future were developed by Charlie Brooker in his fascinating series “Black Mirror”, but also inspires others. Rapid technological developments in the 21st century, and how these affect reality, drove the talented young filmmaker Noah Hutton (son of actors Timothy Hutton and Debra Winger) to make ‘Lapsis’ (2020), a film that does not just happen. pushed into a box. A basis of science fiction is mixed with a good dash of social drama and that is topped with a touch of black humor. Theme: how the tech giants (here it is a fictitious company, but feel free to fill in Google, Amazon or Microsoft) are becoming more powerful by the day, forcing the common man to hook up, so as not to miss the boat. He is then completely squeezed out like a plaything by those same technological superpowers. Nature also has to believe in ‘Lapsis’, although nobody seems to really make a point of it.
The protagonist in ‘Lapsis’, which takes place in an alternative reality, is Ray (Dean Imperial), a simple good man who has long refused to join the ranks of the nations. Quantum computers are increasingly leading the way, but Ray doesn’t like it. The result of this is that he is killed in parking fines, for example, because he simply refuses to use the corresponding quantum software. He has always managed to get by with a simple job at the ‘Lost Luggage’ department at the local airport, but he feels an increasing need to throw his principles overboard. The main reason is his younger brother Jamie (Babe Howard), who he cares for and who is suffering from a new kind of chronic fatigue syndrome. There is a treatment for it, but it costs a lot of money. A quick way to make money – much faster than moving suitcases at the airport – is ‘cabling’. The work is announced with flashy promotional films: you are busy in the open air, where you unroll cables from large reels. You move from one quantum location to another, through forested areas. A child can do the laundry, and there is a big bag of money in return. The cable operators all receive a device that keeps track of exactly how much they have walked and how much they have earned with it, but that also indicates when it is time to rest and when they can go to the toilet (3x per 24 hours!). The faster the cable operators travel the distance, the higher they climb the ladder (which in turn brings better rewards). We have to take them into account with robots that travel the same route ‘on automatic pilot’; if such a robot crosses your path, you can forget your payment.
Ray, who is assigned the job through an intermediary, receives a device and a username that has already been used by someone else. He makes surprisingly fast progress for a newcomer and that arouses suspicion among the other cable operators. Who was the person who used this device before and why the others look at him with their neck when they hear his username is a mystery to Ray. Only the mysterious Anna (Madeline Wise) gives him the benefit of the doubt. She tells the newcomer about the downside of the work: the rivalry and competition between cable operators, the physical exhaustion, the lack of medical care. The ropes are completely squeezed out and with a bit of bad luck just before you reach the finish line, a robot crosses your path and all your efforts are in vain. Anna tells him about the illegal ways that cable operators have devised to outsmart the robots + a metaphor for employees who take action to put a stop to their degrading working conditions.
A science fiction film that takes place in a parallel reality. The world of ‘Lapsis’ is recognizable, albeit with alienating elements. But at the same time not so alienating that we cannot imagine anything about it. This film works best as a biting satire on the expansion drive of technology giants and the danger of always wanting to piggyback on technological developments. In a way, ‘Lapsis’ is comparable to the work of Ken Loach, the British grandmaster of the ‘kitchen sink drama’. The parallels you can draw between this film and, for example, ‘Sorry We Missed You’ from 2019 are many. But while Loach makes his drama convincingly human and palpable, in ‘Lapsis’ the emphasis is more on satire.
The protagonist Ray may be a sympathetic figure, but he tends to be a bit like a caricature. There is no intense emotional involvement. For the story, Hutton gets stuck in good ideas. In terms of originality and inventiveness, the film certainly scores points, but the story itself remains vague and the ending does not leave you feeling satisfied. Hutton seems to want to share a lot about abuses on the social and societal level, but in the end says very little that we did not already know. ‘Lapsis’ is a nice and entertaining satire on capitalist slavery, which is launched with an original starting point but ultimately does not quite live up to its promise due to a lack of depth, clarity and humanity.