Friday 23 January 2015

LiFi (2014)

Directors: Preston Peterson and Jason Boesch
Stars: Zachary Ray Sherman, Sun Hong and Jeremy Radin
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
I adored LiFi and, as much as I also adored the freaky cyberpunk visuals of The Developer and the quirky Japanese weirdness of B-Class Cultural Heritage, I'd call it easily the best sci-fi short in show. It's nineteen minutes long but it's so relentlessly charming and thoroughly engaging that it feels like half that. It's full of ideas, as all the best science fiction stories are, so much so that they frequently bounce off each other at a rate of knots. It's a story about a single man, a trio of young scientists and a set of potential changes to the human race. It's a light hearted comedy and it's an emotional drama. It's a whole slew of things all at once and yet it never loses its focus. And it has the toughest but most appropriate ending I've seen in years. As soon as the first word of the end credits appears, we throw our hands in the air and scream that Preston Peterson and Jason Boesch, who wrote and directed, gipped us out of a resolution, but, about one second later, we realise that we always had to provide it ourselves. That's the whole point.

This trio are young men working out of what appears to be a well equipped garage or storage container. Allister sounds like Steve Buscemi but is a little nerdier. He teleports an apple from one table to another right before the title appears; that's our starting point. Joon is the inevitable Asian while Marc is the one who looks more like a wrestler than a scientist but sounds perfect. Zachary Ray Sherman, Sun Hong and Jeremy Radin all sell their roles absolutely, because it's never just about their key lines, the ones that are supposed to resonate and have the angel and devil on our shoulders start another ethical discussion; it's about every line, even the throwaway ones that still serve to build their characters as they find their way through the various escalations the script throws at them to the point where they must put their money where their mouths are. This is what science fiction is supposed to be: funny without being outrageous, dramatic without overdoing it, so packed with ideas that they spill out over the edge for us to catch.
We join the film at the point where Allister is feeling very confident, because his apple teleportation was the third consecutive success without a hint of apple sauce, and he wants to talk about the next step. We have working teleportation from the outset, which is enough for many films, but they move on up to dead tissue in the form of a hamburger. It teleports but then explodes, hurtling a bone into Joon's safety shield; they theorise that the various sources for the burger confused their equipment but somehow revitalised bone and hair from the burger's DNA. Soon the others talk him into teleporting Petey, their lab mouse, in the process discovering that their machine isn't just a transporter, it's also a 'genetic cleansing service', because the mouse that comes out the other side has the same DNA as Petey but is missing the scar he wears with pride after nearly losing his liver in an experiment long ago. Suddenly, it isn't just about what they've managed to achieve, it's what else their achievement will become.

All three actors sell their characters well, but they benefit from the dialogue that they're given. The most important line clearly arrives after Marc vocalises what they're all thinking. 'This could change humanity for ever,' he says, and Allister calmly replies, 'Are we ready for that?' Could a species that watches Jersey Shore really be ready for immortality? Well, maybe a species that watches films like LiFi might. All three of these characters are intelligent alpha go-getters, so they're hardly a cross section of modern America, but they are a refreshing trio to watch in a science fiction film. I personally had an absolute blast without having to endure a comic relief idiot dumbing down the intelligence winging its way around their storage locker. I enjoyed the asides, the debates, the very subtle Bones quote, as much as I enjoyed those ethical concerns that proliferate like raindrops. This is the sort of film that we can watch half a dozen times, pick up new issues and sit down with good company to dissect them and what they raise. That's priceless.

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