‘Double’: Sundance review | Comments

Dir/scr: Riley Stearns. WE. 2022. 95 minutes

Scottish star Karen Gillan is the main selling point of Riley Stearns’ latest film (The art of self defensee) – an odd mix of tongue-in-cheek satire and conceptual sci-fi that some might find off-putting – so it’s convenient for him that she delivers not one but two intense, stripped-back performances. His presence, as well as that of Westworldis Aaron Paul, and DoubleGenre Traps is likely to attract wider interest from festivals and distributors following its premiere in the US Dramatic Competition at Sundance.

Stearns always tends to choose the heaviest weapon and the easiest target

Gillan’s character, Sarah, is a far cry from her warrior roles like Marvel’s Nebula or even Jumanji’s Ruby, living a solitary life punctuated by alcohol, avoiding conversations with her mother (Maija Paunio) and bland video calls with her boyfriend Peter (Beulah Koale), who works away from home. Shot in Finland, the cold light and blue tones captured by cinematographer Michael Ragen reflect the kind of laid-back gloom that runs through Sarah’s life.

When Sarah is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it triggers one of the film’s many conversations that are delivered in a style so deliberately deadpan and unaffected that it borders on flat. “Nothing is ever absolutely certain, but it most certainly is,” her doctor (June Hyde) tells her. Obviously having never watched movies about the perils of cloning, Sarah decides to create a “replacement” of herself – a fun-simple procedure – who will follow her on the verge of imbibing her personality. , ready to take on Sarah’s life when she dies. the pain of his loved ones; a premise that the film shares with the recent Swan song.

The arrival of this replacement leads to some well-crafted humor as, in effect, Sarah questions her likes and dislikes and her appearance, forcing her to think about her life in ways she clearly hasn’t. previously. (The scenes Sarah shares with her double are also technically well-edited by Sarah Beth Shapiro, so it’s easy to believe there are two of Gillan’s.) All the kinds of trouble you might expect awaits. , notably that everyone in Sarah’s life loves her twice as much as she does.

And things only get worse when Sarah finds out she’s not terminal after all. The difficulty is that, if a clone doesn’t want to be downgraded, they have the right to “duel to the death” – and so the date is set. This all might sound like spoiler territory, but Stearns clearly signals what’s to come both in the film’s title and in its first scene, in which a man battles his double after choosing from a curious assortment of weapons – from a pistol to a pair of garden shears. – in front of a crowd and the TV cameras.

Events are played out largely for dry humor, as Sarah hires a trainer, Trent (Paul), to prepare her for the showdown. The sci-fi concept is really just a fanciful framework for Stearns to weave a much more low-tech satire on social discomfort, our all too easy acceptance of violence, the influence of corporations on our lives and the existential crisis in general.

There’s also room for absurd black comedy, notably involving his Trent’s dog, but just like those preparing for a duel, Stearns always tends to go for the heaviest weapon and the hardest target. easy. It’s Gillan who keeps things on track, somehow making Sarah and her double likable so that we remain genuinely invested in their destinies.

Production Company: XYZ Films

International Sales: XYZ Films [email protected]

Producers: Lee Kim, Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray, Riley Stearns

Production Design: Sattva-Hanna Toiviainen

Director of photography: Michael Ragen

Editing: Sarah Beth Shapiro

Original music: Emma Ruth Rundle

Main cast: Karen Gillan, Beulah Koale, Aaron Paul, Maija Paunio, June Hyde

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