An emotionally intense low-budget sci-fi flick
Where do we go when we die? This is a question that has affected most of us at some point in our lives. Facing up to our own mortality is tough, as is the mortality of the people we love and care for. Is there life after death? The answer isn’t an obvious one as there are all kinds of viewpoints on the matter.
I have my own opinions and, chances are, you will have your own take on the subject too. But why am I talking about such a weighty topic here?
Well, a new film set for release on streaming platforms this November raises the themes that I raised above. Repeat is a low-budget British science-fiction drama that explores concepts surrounding the afterlife, loss, and parental grief. It was made during the pandemic last year with a small cast (including Ghosts star Charlotte Ritchie) and was directed by relative newcomers Richard Miller and Grant Archer.
Despite the low budget and the restrictions enforced by COVID, the film is definitely worth a watch. It tells the story of young couple Ryan and Emily, whose daughter Sam goes missing after school.
Months after her disappearance, their relationship is fracturing, partly due to the stress and grief that they are both under as they come to terms with the possibility that Sam may not be found alive. We’ve seen this kind of story before of course, usually in serialized fashion on television. However, directors Miller and Archer take us on a different kind of journey here.
Ryan is a professor of Cognitive Science, and for reasons that my feeble mind is unable to fully comprehend, this gives him the ability to create a machine that can supposedly connect with people in the afterlife. He demonstrates the machine at public gatherings, giving people the opportunity to speak to lost loved ones via their DNA which causes the machine to function.
As he tries to come to terms with Sam’s possible death, Ryan also uses the machine himself. Does he make contact with Sam? I’m not going to give away any story points here but needless to say, Ryan tinkering with things that he doesn’t fully understand has traumatic consequences.
Repeat isn’t the first film to feature characters who want to know what happens after death. The 1990 film Flatliners (and its tepid remake) explored similar themes and there have been countless other films that have given us a glimpse of ‘the other side.’ We watch them, not only to be entertained but to try to gain an understanding of the future that awaits each and every one of us. Of course, we don’t really get any concrete answers to life’s greatest mystery but it’s fascinating to watch different interpretations nevertheless.
Still, don’t go into this film expecting resolutions that fall in line with the conclusions of movies past. While it explores similar concepts, it still treads its own path, and the final reveal is quite unexpected. To say more would be to do a disservice to director Miller who also wrote the script. In short, expect the unexpected.
Expect to be moved by the plight of Ryan and Emily too as they try to live a life without the child who gave them so much love and joy. This is as much a tearjerker as sci-fi drama and there are elements of existential horror here too.
At times, the film’s lack of budget shows. The special effects, while not terrible by any means, are not comparable to those you might see in a big Hollywood production. Think 80’s Doctor Who instead of something Lucasfilm might have dreamed up, especially when considering the machine Ryan uses to contact the dead.
This isn’t a bad thing, however, as something that looked like it was made by a team of technical boffins and not just one man (Ryan created the machine alone in his garage), would have seemed quite implausible. The lack of CGI and visual pyrotechnics isn’t a bad thing either as this is a film that firmly focuses on the human side of the story and not fancy spectacle.
With a hauntingly atmospheric music score by composer Thomas George and a script that cleverly plays on our emotions, Repeat will draw you in, despite the lack of budget.
The film, on the whole, is a very good one and it’s quite remarkable when you consider its micro-budget, 5-person crew, and pandemic-causing shooting restrictions.
Curb your expectations a little and you will be treated to a film that will enthral and surprise you, without the cookie-cutter ideas that have been oft-used within many Hollywood productions of this type. What it lacks in visual spectacle it makes up for in emotional intensity. While it won’t blow your mind, it might give you a reason to hug and spend more time with the people that are closest to you.
Repeat releases on November 16th 2021!