Friday, April 19

Antiviral Review

Dir: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon,
and Malcolm McDowell

“I’ll never wash this hand again.” A proud proclamation made by a fan after meeting an admired actor at a recent film festival I attended. This obsession with celebrity is all the more relevant with the increasing access of technology allowing immediate interaction; it allows fans an intimate look into the daily routine of their adulated celeb. The implication, both literal and figurative, behind this fascination is the source material for director Brandon Cronenberg’s thought provoking first feature Antiviral.

The film portrays an altered society that allows fanatical followers, basically addicts, the most damaging expressions of celebrity admiration. Popular personalities sell intimate matters of personal privacy to the adoring public. However, this isn’t an autographed picture, it’s the harvested viruses and infections direct from the body of the star.  Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is a representative of a company that deals the collected samples to the eager masses. Though Syd is also dealing disease on the black market; he is tasked with extracting a sample from the beautiful Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) who has recently been infected with an unknown virus. Syd, trying to get a jump on the underground competition, injects the sample into himself just before the superstar dies.

The first 45 minutes of Antiviral is a captivating work. Unfortunately the remaining 60 minutes falls into the place of a contrived metaphor and an unfulfilled idea. Cronenberg establishes the view of his society quickly but the rolling wheel of ideas soon begins to spin in place and interesting parallels are overlooked, like the allure of the celebrities depicted. Scenes begin to replay themselves and the pace slows rapidly which ultimately affects the finale.

Cronenberg doesn’t restrain from implying meaning, essentially that the general public in his vision of society feeds, literally, on celebrity. In the virus selling clinic obsessive fans wait for treatment with depressed, near lifeless, expressions on their faces. Feeling so detached from the lives of the people they venerate, the connection with the admired grows into a force of destructive self-infliction. Cronenberg supports these sentiments by pulling the color from his world, creating a cold and isolated existence with stark white and black environments. The photography, specifically the combination of close-up and wide shots, provides an interesting perspective into the implied meanings behind some imagery; for instance the few close-ups of reflections caught in characters eyes. Caleb Landry Jones is a suitable pick to play the lead and he offers some nice physical attributes to the character especially when his illness progresses. Malcolm McDowell makes a small cameo as Hannah Geist’s medical doctor, but his skills are under utilized in the role. Gadon plays Geist with a silent and picturesque appeal, making a virus-ridden patient seem attractive.

Brandon Cronenberg will undeniably be judged and critiqued in reference to his iconic father, which might not be such a bad thing considering his first feature displays undeniable and refreshing talent. Antiviral begins with promise, executing a difficult concept, but the satisfaction fades as the narrative ceases to progress ideas proposed. 

Monte’s Rating
3.00 out of 5.00

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