Time is truly the enemy of us all. It’s perhaps the only thing in our lives which is truly finite. whose amount is uncertain and, once used, is never be replenished. There’s a quote attributed to singer/actor/activist Henry Rollins that there is “…no such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time, no such thing as down time. All you got is life time. Go.” As so many in 2020 find themselves uncertain how to spend theirs in quarantine, a new dilemma sprung forth to complicate matters: forced communing among couples. Strange as it may sound, evidentially close quarter confinement has led to strife among those whom normally live in bliss. Even with spare rooms to go, the fact that people can’t get breaks from those with whom they share space turns contentment to bitterness and despair. Writer/director Guy Moshe (Bunraku) takes these two elements and adds in an ecological component to craft his newest tale, the sci-fi drama LX 2048. It is, without a doubt, one of the more uncomfortable cinematic adventures I’ve taken this year as Moshe’s protagonist goes on a journey of self-discovery that does nothing more than confirm what many still engaged in quarantine already know: people are selfish and cruel.
In an unspecified future, the sun has turned toxic, necessitating humanity to live by night and sleep by day in order to avoid high radiation levels and the torturous heat of Sol’s rays. As a result, humanity has mostly moved indoors, existing with a strange happiness through an elevated form of internet called “The Realm” and a daily dose of state-issued medication 001LithiumX. Fighting against the digital and chemical revolution is Adam Bird (James D’Arcy), a tech broker who continues to work during the day and refuses to take the medication. To make matters worse, Adam has learned that he’s developed a heart condition and his time is running out. Struggling between an existence which seems meaningless, a family he wishes to reconnect with, and the threat of an incoming replacement by a state-sanctioned cloned version of himself, Adam begins a fight for a life he never truly appreciated until it was too late.
There are so many ideas within LX 2048 that it’s basically bursting at the seams to get them all out in the open. Moshe isn’t content just exploring one or two ideas. He’s got several, all of which mostly do come crashing together by the end. The more subtle concepts, like ecological disaster and government-sanctioned medicine, boil in the background, requiring the audience to just go along with little in the way of explanation. For those more scientifically-minded, questions surrounding which happened first — the sun’s assault on mankind pushes humanity indoors or the movement to digital spaces creating the abandonment of nature — are likely to find themselves frustrated as Moshe isn’t as interested in laying those answers out in front of you. Instead, much like 2017’s Blade Runner 2049’s own ecological destruction, the reasoning for the solar unrest is less significant to the plot outside of creating a physical manifestation of Adam’s ferocious inability to conform. The medication element, one which is given to all citizens as a means of regulating mood due to the persistent, often debilitating, need to stay indoors is also never really addressed beyond being a jumping off point to explore Adam’s control issues. Strangely, these two aspects are by far some of the more interesting in the film and, while they may be mere back-drop for the rest of the tale, the questions that arise from them instill a much-needed intrigue.
Where things fall apart a bit is in the more obvious blending of martial dissolution, identity, and technological advancement at the cost of humanity. It’s not that these narrative themes aren’t worthy of exploring, it’s that the execution of them within LX 2048 is either severely heavy-handed in the form of long, exhausting monologues wherein Adam spouts personal ideology after ideology to the point where the film is just lecturing the audience instead of telling a story or it’s so lightly touched upon that it’s left entirely to inference. If not for the goodwill D’Arcy’s developed through projects like Agent Carter, there’s little to like in our protagonist as he unveils himself to actually be the film’s antagonist, one who finds no pleasure in anything unless he can bend it to his will, though never through actual force, just passive aggression. The fact that Adam is dying, a reveal which comes quickly, makes him a tad sympathetic, but as he’s slowly revealed to be, not puerile necessarily, but emotionally immature, makes him loathsome. Even the exploration of marital strife is handled in a very one-sided manner with Adam the obvious lout and only the merest of hints that maybe Anna Brewster’s Reena Bird might be in some manner culpable. Whether in forced quarantine conditions or not, people do grow apart. The things that we fall in love with or the people who we are do change over time. Our wants, our needs, our desires shift. LX 2048 makes no room for this and puts forward the notion that the fault in the marriage is shared, not purely Adam’s. At least, that’s how it seems at first. Except, the more time we spend with Adam, the more we see a bit of what Reena sees. The thing is, without her perspective on the matter, we’ve only got Adam’s word for it. Combined with his constant diatribes, there’s little that remains toward Adam for the audience by the end but disgust.
Taken in pieces, there’re some interesting concepts within LX 2048. The notion of identity in a post-cloning age is particularly interesting as it implies that while you yourself are gone, you still live on. This is danced-around mostly until a rather significant monologue is offered, at which point the audience is slapped in the face with it, but the existential crisis it creates is never really explored. Given the premise of Adam’s pending demise as narrative catalyst, there’s an expectation of an examination of the soul and personhood. Instead, the argument comes more frequently in the form of real experience versus digital experience in The Realm that ultimately evolves into an exploration of control. There’s so much potential here for something deep and provocative and yet it comes off feeling like Blade Runner-lite with the growing presence of misogyny certainly not helping to add an opportunities for enlightenment.
Overall, LX 2048 looks cool and sounds interesting, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark on what it’s targeting. Perhaps it’s because the film has too many ideas of what it is about to allow any of them to coalesce into any kind of singularity or that the more time we spend with Adam, the less we’re interested in what becomes of him. Given the absolute ingenuity Moshe demonstrates as LX 2048 comes screaming toward the conclusion, setting off some truly fascinating and discussion-worthy concepts, it’s a shame that the whole of the film doesn’t deserve the same reaction. Ultimately, LX 2048 reveals itself to be a film that is much like Adam, so desperate to mean something that it’ll destroy everything it cares for despite the cost.
In select theaters, on VOD, and digital beginning September 25th, 2020.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 5.