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[FrightFest Review] ‘Realive’ is a Moving Sci-Fi Love Story

Realive was probably the least FrightFest-y film I saw at this year’s festival, and also one of the most affecting.

Marc (Tom Hughes) is a diagnosed with a terminal illness as a young man, and during his final year of life decides to take a punt on cryogenic freezing. Fast forward to 2084 and science has advanced to the point where the process of resurrection may actually be possible, and Marc is selected as the subject. But, adjusting to his new life isn’t easy, and Marc starts to reminisce on the time he spent with his childhood sweetheart, Naomi (“Game of Thrones’” Oona Chaplin).

This begins the development of two distinct narrative and thematic strands: the first, a modern retelling of the Frankenstein myth, and the second, a meditation on love and time. The first is interesting, and at times subversive, but offers little you won’t have seen discussed before: instead, it’s the second that really stands out.

I was deeply moved by the tale of Marc and Naomi’s ill-fated romance. Most of this relationship line comes in the form of increasingly integral, and always engaging, flashbacks. One piece of technology in this new world is the “Mind Writer”, which is worn like a small virtual reality headset and allows the user to view, and augment, memories. It’s an interesting idea that acts as a vehicle for the flashbacks, but the device itself is also mined for some interesting discussion: people get addicted to their Mind Writer, and spend more time reliving old memories than making new ones.

This is just one aspect of the future writer-director Mateo Gil (Blackthorn) has thoughtfully created. His semi-utopia is all glass and clinical whites, but the most significant changes are in culture and ideology, as opposed to technology. Marc’s nurse, Elizabeth (Charlotte Le Bon), informs him very matter-of-factly that the concept of romance has all but fallen by the wayside, in favour of practical sex parties. All this makes Marc’s longing seem almost nostalgic.

The architecture, the smart integration of visual effects and the talkie, low-key approach to science fiction gives the film an Ex Machina vibe, but it never quite reaches those heights. However, as with Ex Machina, I was reminded of the TV show “Black Mirror” and wondered whether a slimmed down version of this story may have been more potent. The film finds its groove when dealing with Marc and Naomi’s relationship, and I could have done without some of the more mundane Frankenstein talk as a result.

Hughes and Chaplin’s charm also helps to sell their relationship. Hughes is an enigmatic lead and I find him to be a really smooth screen presence. Likewise, the strong design work and the neat effects shots, as well as the score by composer Lucas Vidal (Fast & Furious 6), add a classy streak to this minimally budgeted sci-fi tale.

Realive is a clinical new-Frankenstein tale on the surface, but the moving central romance provides the film’s beating heart.FrightFest-Realive-2


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