Monday, 11 June 2018

Otherlife (4½ Stars)

Ren Amari is the software developer and co-founder of a company called OtherLife. Based on research by her father, she has developed a drug that enables a person to experience lengthy experiences, up to a year, in a single minute. She doesn't like it being called a drug, she prefers to call it biological software.

It's not random hallucinations. You select what you want to experience in advance. You can choose to be by the beach, or on a mountain, or in a forest. When you're there you can interact with the environment, and the weather is always good. The main purpose of the drug is recreation. If a worker is stressed he can have a week's holiday in his lunch break and return to work full of energy. Future applications involve education, such as learning to drive within a minute. The release of the drug to the public is now only seven days away.

Both Ren and her business partner Sam have other plans for the drug that they keep secret from one another. Ren's brother has been in a coma for three years after almost drowning at sea. She thinks she can heal him by planting new memories in his mind. Sam wants to sell the drug to the government for use on criminals. Using the drug a person can serve a 10-year prison sentence in a few minutes, putting an end to overcrowded prisons. There are even plans to make multiple life sentences a reality by putting a person in a virtual cell for hundreds of years.

Isn't there also a danger of addiction? Ren's boyfriend Danny enjoys a skiing trip in her apartment. He enjoys it so much that he wants to do it again. Ren tells him it's too soon, but he grabs an untested version of the drug and administers it to himself. He dies. Ren is arrested, but she's told that she won't have to go to court if she volunteers to test a one year virtual prison sentence. Any fears she had about the use of the drug for imprisonment being inhumane are verified. It's one year in solitary confinement in a small room. There's no window, and the only light is a number on the wall telling her what day it is, counting up from 1 to 365.

I don't know how a person can remain sane after a year in solitary confinement. There's not even a guard bringing her food every day. Her daily rations of canned tuna and water just appear in a cupboard every day when she wakes up. But the biggest horror is yet to come. After a year the counter is reset from 365 to 1 and the time starts again.

That's the most I can tell you without giving away too many spoilers. This is a fascinating science fiction film that I can strongly recommend to my readers. It's an Australian film, proving once more that high quality films can be made outside of Hollywood. Netflix has the exclusive rights to "OtherLife", so you won't be able to buy it on disc.

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