‘Realive’: Film Review | Paris Fantastic Fest 2016

Realive Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Realive Still - Publicity - H 2016

Intriguing if sentimental sci-fi.

Spanish writer-director Mateo Gil (‘The Sea Inside’) offers up a futuristic tale of medical miracles and personal melancholies in his second English-language effort.

Those who dream of living forever may want to alter their retirement plans after watching Realive, an inventive if somewhat mawkish sci-fi melodrama in which a terminally ill hipster finds himself regenerated in the near-distant future, only to learn that he may have been better off dead.

The second feature from Spanish filmmaker Mateo Gil — screenwriter of The Sea Inside and Abre Los Ojos (aka the original Vanilla Sky) — this stylish chamber piece plays like a cross between Ex Machina and The Tree of Life, mixing a cleverly conceived biotechnical fable with sun-dappled sentimentalism that doesn’t always resonate like it should. After making the festival rounds, including a stop at the Paris International Fantastic Fest, the polished Euro-financed effort will land a few theatrical stints and lots of VOD reincarnations on platforms dishing out genre flicks.

Set between a state-of-the-art medical facility in the year 2084 and a cushy seaside city (probably meant to be Los Angeles, although the film was lensed in the Canary Islands) in 2015, the story jumps back and forth between the two periods as it chronicles the woeful existence of Marc Jarvis (Tom Hughes), a dashing commercial artist who learns he has throat cancer and decides to get himself cryogenically preserved.

Less than a century later, he wakes up pretty much intact — though minus the scrubby Williamsburg beard — serving as humanity’s first successful reboot at the hands of the powerful Prodigy Health Group and its passive-aggressive genius, Dr. West (Barry Ward). Facing months of rehabilitation to get in shape, Marc — or Lazarus, as he’s biblically nicknamed by the doctors — is assisted by Elizabeth (Charlotte Le Bon), a doe-eyed nurse who teaches him about the ways of the new world, which include pills for all of life’s needs, casual intercourse with no strings attached and a fashion trend whereby everyone walks around in neutral-colored sweatwear.

Gil is a gifted writer-director and manages to intercut the past and future with considerable skill for most of the running time, building a sterile dystopia filled with slick technology and production design (courtesy of Alain Bainee) that recalls Oscar Isaac’s minimalist lair in Ex Machina, primary colors included. Where things hit a snag is during flashbacks involving Marc’s on-and-off relationship with Naomi (Oona Chaplin) — a best friend and occasional lover he falls for just as the cancer kicks in — with a backstory meant to convey why our hero grows so sullen as the narrative moves ahead, although the result is several overdramatic moments that rely a lot on Lucas Vidal’s gushy score to create emotion.

The film’s montage-heavy final act, which melds Marc’s disparate lives together and ties up a few loose ends, doesn’t really pack the punch it should, despite sharp cutting by editor Guillermo de la Cal (Aloft). This may be because Hughes (London Town) is not the most liveliest of performers here — a fact that one could attribute to his character’s semi-comatose state when he wakes up in 2084, although he often seems a bit out of it in 2015 as well. Chaplin (Game of Thrones) is much more animated as a woman who decides to accompany her man in his quest for immortality, while Quebecois actress Le Bon (Iris) is creepy, if a tad flat, as Marc’s gorgeous physical therapist, personal assistant and extremely ready-and-willing sex partner.

Technical credits are impressively polished for what was allegedly a $7 million production, with cinematographer Pau Esteve (Beautiful Youth) filming in colorful shallow focus to make the most of the enclosed settings, and visual effects supervisor Jordi San Agustin (Eva) melding organic and artificial elements into a credible whole.

Production companies: Arcadia Motion Pictures, Achaham Films, Noodles Production
Cast: Tom Hughes, Oona Chaplin, Charlotte Le Bon, Barry Ward
Director-screenwriter: Mateo Gil
Producers: Ibon Cormenzana, Ignasi Estape
Executive producers: Angel Jurandez, Jerome Vidal, Genevieve Lernal
Director of photography: Pau Esteve
Production designer: Alain Bainee
Costume designer: Clara Bilbao
Editor: Guillermo de la Cal
Composer: Lucas Vidal
Casting directors: Dixie Chassay, Luci Lenox
Sales: SC Film International

107 minutes