Monday, April 15, 2024

“ANOTHER END”

THE STORY – Sal’s empty eyes reveal he has been living only on memories since he lost the love of his life, Zoe. Memories like fragments of a shattered mirror that cannot be put back together. Observing her brother with growing concern, Sal’s sister Ebe suggests that he tries “Another End”, a new technology that promises to ease the pain of separation by briefly bringing back to life the consciousness of a person who has died. In this way, Sal finds Zoe again – but in the body of another woman. It is a body he does not know but in which he is mysteriously able to recognise his wife. What was broken suddenly seems to be mended. In fact, “Another End” grants Sal the time to share a little more life with Zoe, to love her again, to be loved by her and, ultimately, to say goodbye. But this is a fragile, ephemeral and insidious joy. When Sal reaches the end of the programme, he has no intention of meekly watching as his love dissolves in the definitive loss of his wife.

THE CAST – Gael García Bernal, Renate Reinsve, Bérénice Bejo, Olivia Williams & Pal Aron

THE TEAM – Piero Messina (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 129 Minutes


Following his 2015 film “The Wait,” director Piero Messina explores the themes of love and death in the modern world through the lens of science-fiction in his latest work, “Another End.” The film follows Sal, played by Gael García Bernal, as he attempts to cope with the loss of his wife, Zoe, after they were involved in a car crash. His sister Ebe (Academy Award nominee Bérénice Bejo for “The Artist“) suggests that he use a service that implants the memories of a departed loved one into a “host” body to allow them closure. He is initially hesitant but eventually decides to try it when his grief proves too difficult to live with.

It’s hard to watch “Another End” without thinking of a “Black Mirror” episode (namely “Be Right Back”), but aside from a similar starting point, there is little overlap between the two stories. Where previous science-fiction stories like this try to ground themselves in reality, “Another End” seeks to disorient its audience. The majority of the film takes place at night in a nondescript city. Messina’s world-building is purposefully vague, creating a dream-like feeling, as though it takes place in the moments just before you fall asleep.

The film explores what it means to love and lose somebody, but it attempts to go beyond that in the ideas it initially puts forth. Writer-director Piero Messina delves into the relationship between the physical and the metaphysical as he’s fascinated by what makes a person. Is it the tangible and knowable? The way they smell, the sound of their voice, and their height? Or is it what cannot be touched: the way they speak and move, the words they choose to say?

Gael García Bernal is convincing in his portrayal of Sal, but the character is underbaked and monotonous. When Sal meets the simulated version of his wife in the body of her new host, Ava (“The Worst Person In The World’s” Renate Reinsve), he is repulsed but, in a not-very-shocking turn of events, finds himself falling in love with her. Reinsve does an excellent job of playing the duality of Ava and Zoe. Unfortunately, the story does very little to service either of these characters, combining the dead wife trope with a slightly more developed version of the manic pixie dream girl to dull effect.

Amongst the sentimental pondering of the first two acts, it’s clear that Messina has something to say about the inclination to sanitize our emotions. The technology is constantly referred to as “therapy” and offers a very clinical alternative to the human suffering that comes with grief. Throughout the film, this sanitization is felt through the direction. The cinematography is often beautiful; it’s clean and sticks to muted color palettes of grey and blue. It is not obvious where the film is set, but the buildings are all in the same modern, generic style. Everything is devoid of mess and humanity. There is a particular dance sequence towards the end of the film that contains one of the most exquisitely crafted shots ever seen (you’ll know it when you see it), but it stands out jarringly in comparison to some of the flat filmmaking found throughout the rest of the film.

Consent is one of the film’s running themes, and it begs an important question from the audience: to what extent can we use another person to satisfy our own needs? This works in multiple ways throughout the narrative. Sal uses the technology to reunite with a version of his wife and is also seen watching her memories. It is never clarified whether his wife consented to this invasion of privacy before she died, and it feels like a violation. There is also Ava, who rents her body to the company as a host. The scenes surrounding Ava are the most intriguing, and it would benefit the film to reach that part sooner. It is not until we start to encounter Ava outside of her hosting hours that the film begins to dip its toes into developing its characters, but ultimately, it is too scared to challenge the ideas it presents. When it is revealed that Ava is a sex worker and dancer outside of hosting, the film’s message is made clear. It’s definitely too heavy-handed in its metaphor, but it works as a plot device all the same. In an earlier scene, we are shown the screening process for the host role, where somebody is asked if they consent to sexual relations while they are essentially unconscious. This juncture brings us back to reality, forcing us to draw a comparison to sex work and asking the question: can consent be bought?

In the film’s final act, tensions between the two characters lead to a dramatic climax and, unfortunately, an eye-rolling reveal that entirely undermines the themes and character arcs of the story. It is a disappointing ending for a film that dares to ask uncomfortable questions about how we navigate modern life but makes no attempt to answer them. Despite some finely tuned filmmaking, “Another End” treads predictable ground and fails its own story in an attempted “gotcha” moment that will leave its audience feeling hollow.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The concept of the story and its themes are intriguing and challenge the audience's preconceptions of the interaction between death and technology. The acting is solid, and the cinematography has a few moments of greatness.

THE BAD - The story is underwritten, and the film does not quite dare to pursue its own ideas.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The concept of the story and its themes are intriguing and challenge the audience's preconceptions of the interaction between death and technology. The acting is solid, and the cinematography has a few moments of greatness.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The story is underwritten, and the film does not quite dare to pursue its own ideas.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"ANOTHER END"