Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 2017. Passage Pictures, BB Film Productions. Screenplay by Michael Almereyda, based on the play by Jordan Harrison. Cinematography by Sean Price Williams. Produced by Michael Almereyda, Uri Singer. Music by Mica Levi. Production Design by Javiera Varas. Costume Design by Kama K. Royz. Film Editing by Kathryn J. Schubert. Gotham Awards 2017. Independent Spirit Awards 2017.
An elderly woman (Lois Smith) succumbing to dementia has taken advantage of a near-future technology, recreating her deceased husband (Jon Hamm) as a hologram to keep her company despite the misgivings of her daughter (Geena Davis). Part of the process of having this artificial intelligence in your home is teaching it to actually be the person you have lost, so can it really be them if they only exist the way you saw them or what you remember? This is an issue for Davis, who has to contend with slowly losing her mother while having a different perspective of her father than the one she feels her mother is romanticizing. Time passes and changes in circumstances see other characters show up as holograms, thus altering living characters’ experiences in a painfully subtle, far too controlled exploration of the nature of life, love and selfhood. Beautiful cinematography and production design suggest things to come on a low budget and the cast is sturdy, but the contemplative, seemingly endless dialogue was likely far more potent on stage and feels quite stilted on film. Smith and Davis never connect in a way that pays off, and Hamm is colourless as the idealized memory, leaving a film caught somewhere between science-fiction cult interest or arthouse whimsy, and never pulling off either.