One of the great things about science fiction stories is the way audiences can jump past an infraction point in society — all the failures, all the arguing, all the attempts at restoration — and explore a world that’s seemingly more advanced than our own. Such is the world of co-writers Tomislav Čečka (Transient Consciousness) and Zdeněk Jecelín (Two Ships) in Bod Obnovy (Restore Point), where electric cars run by A.I. are the norm, where working from home is not seen as an attack on corporate interests, and death is not the end of life. Directed by Robert Hloz (Transient Consciousness) and having its North American premiere during Fantasia International Film Festival 2023, Restore Point is a provocative sci-fi thriller exploring the complicated moral and ethical questions that come from putting an end to the natural life cycle in terms of humanity and greed. Though much of it can be predicted, the ride is not any less thrilling or philosophical.
By 2041, due to rising unrest and violent conflict, a technology was devised that could bring back any person who died, restoring them to full capability prior to their death. This technology is so wildly-used that a counter-movement, dubbed River of Life, seeks to bring about the end of the tech known as Restore Point in order to return to a time when death was the end. Arriving at a crime scene, Detective Trochinowska (Andrea Mohylová) discovers that the victims are directly tied to Restore Point and their deaths could signal a new action by River of Life because neither victim has a logged restoration file. However, things change when the dead man, a scientist named David (Matej Hádek), appears with the last six months of his memory missing. Was he murdered, is he the murderer, or is he a stepping stone to a larger conspiracy? Either way, Trochinowska knows River of Life is involved and she’s determined to find the truth.
Restore Point possesses parts that are likely to remind cinephiles of films like either Blade Runner film and Demolition Man (1993), cinematic adventures with varying levels of action, plenty of intrigue, and the kind of technology that lulls audiences into a state of wonder where they forget that the timeline is far closer than one might expect. In the three aforementioned films, technology is at a point where it tries to course-correct for humanity’s failings. In the Blade Runner films, replicants are created to do the jobs that regular humans couldn’t withstand ranging from heavy work to prostitution. In Demolition Man, violence is all but gone, art is devoid of emotion, the transfer of fluids is illegal, and, of course, there’re the three seashells. Restore Point follows a similar path of these others, yet, though it maintains its humanity, one can see where this world may dovetail into the others. In the few interactions we see Trochinowska involved in with others, technology itself is still a tool, not a replacement for human connection. It’s about as manipulative as the keyboard I use to write this review. I won’t find compassion in these keys; I’ll have to go elsewhere for that. Rather, Trochinowska and others like her may use the technology as we do to make phone calls, order a meal, or utilize an app to start a car remotely. At this point in the world, the script places these characters less than 20 years ahead of us and past the point of all the computer glitches that make A.I. frightening, focused only on the utility. This makes the script free to explore how advancements in technology deprive us of the human experience by trying to solve problems through avoidance rather than direct action and true solutions.
At no point does the film, save for a few lines at the start, get into the creation of Restore Point. We don’t know what conflict it was, who was involved, or why restoration seemed like the only viable solution. Thus, a question is formed and interrogated throughout the film: why do people think restoration is more viable than conflict? Surely we can agree that most any loss of life is tragic, but why must the solution be to halt death? And, if that is the solution, why must it be commodified? Once commodified, as it is in this alt-future, why does everyone think that a business will always have your best interests at heart? Thankfully, Cecka’s and Jecelin’s script does get into this, as well as the culpability of society and its systems in not only creating a space for such a business, but keeping it running. A phrase that gets thrown around a lot (and makes one think of Hot Fuzz (2007) in the process) is “the greater good.” Each time, it’s used as a hand-wave, a kind of all-encompassing statement that somehow justifies any criminality or the appearance of it. By taking the time, amid the action and intrigue, to explore this philosophies and their opposition, the audience is challenged to consider their own views from the start of the film to those at the end.
What ultimately brings the film down is that in trying to remain unpredictable, it lessens the options of what it could be, thereby making the surprises few and the ending removed of heft. This does allow the larger questions regarding the ethics of rebirth post-death in the same body get raised, creating the opportunity for exploration by the audience when the narrative is complete. However, the finality of life is what gives us meaning, thereby making certain choices in the film less impactful because there’s an easy reset. That and the way in which the script calls its shots early in the film means that the audience is waiting for them to pay off. How well they do is up to the individual audience member, of course, yet I couldn’t help but find it frustrating at times because it undercut the mystery propelling the characters forward. In that way, I felt like I was waiting for Trochinowska to catch up instead of the other way around. Even with a few well-designed twists, the lack of actual surprise carries with it a certain frustration.
Before wrapping, allow a moment to at least state that Mohylová carries this film from start to finish. She’s its skeptic, its true north, its wide-eyed believer, and its foundation. As far as audience surrogates goes, her performance as Trochinowska enables the audience to just accept that the world she inhabits just *is*, thereby making the acceptance of a world in which people can be brought back to life is a day ending in “y.” Without her performance grounding everything, the film would truly be lost, its ponderings far more typical than in less capable hands. With her, however, Restore Point gains a perspective worth following, a voice to give rise to our own questions, and the surrogate to challenge what we cannot.
Screening during Fantasia International Film Festival 2023.
For more information, head to the official Fantasia Restore Point webpage.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.