High Life18¦ Blu-ray, DVD
Since satisfying his blood lust in the silly Twilight franchise, Brit Robert Pattinson has curiously avoided leads in commercial vehicles, choosing instead to embrace a wide range of roles in smaller, more independent projects.
Some of them work, like 2017’s impressive Good Time, and some of them don’t. Like this.
A bunch of condemned prisoners, facing the death penalty: the natural choice to be shot into space to take part in breeding experiments. Amongst them is Monte (Pattinson); one of the more amiable of the prisoners, who seems to take not only take the experiments in his stride, but also the fact that their final destination is to be a black hole.
Some of the others however, aren’t the most receptive space guinea pigs, and on board nurse Dibs (Juliette Binoche) soon realises that’s she’s got her work cut out for herself.
For French director Claire Denis, this foray into space is also her first English language film. Which may act as the perfect excuse for its appalling lack of quality, with much of it, like all the good stuff, possibly being lost in translation. Still, that’s no excuse for all the English-speaking cast, who really should have known better.
Visually it looks on the embarrassing side. The internal sets of the spaceship – which in itself looks like a piece of cast aside IKEA furniture – are a mix of Camden crack house and upcycling what very little was left off the set from classic seventies TV show Space: 1999. Imagine Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace set in space, and you’ll have the idea. It’s clearly low budget, and far more Inter-Rail than Interstellar. But remarkably, its tacky veneer isn’t even its main problem.
If the film were to have a sub-title, it would be Sex Pests in Space! And yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. It’s never made clear as to why there are experiments based around fertility taking place, but it’s also unclear as to why serious actress Binoche is channelling a naughty nurse from an eighties porno throughout. Nor why the ship, with very few mod cons, has a state-of-the-art masturbation booth on board. Yes, it’s that kind of film.
And then there’s the black hole, which really doesn’t come soon enough, for either cast or audience.
No-one can blame Pattinson for wanting a jaunt in space, but maybe someone should have told him his space antics would look like they were shot in someone’s garage in Eltham first.
One person who comes out of this fiasco with a modicum of cool is Outkast band member André Benjamin, whose performance is remarkably watchable, considering.
There’s just such a high level of pretence with Denis’ film, it’s difficult to not only take it seriously, but to endure. It desperately wants to be seen as poetic and ethereal, but much like the often seen milky substances seen throughout, it’s just wank.