Review: Brand New-U (EIFF)

BNU 1

Screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Directed by Simon Pummell

Starring Lachlan Nieboer, Nora-Jane Noone, Tony Way

When his girlfriend is abducted, Slater investigates Brand New-U, a company offering individuals a whole new life: how far will he go in pursuit of love?

Brand New-U is a slow burn sci-fi movie that explores questions of identity in a way that aspires to mix Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) with the cold filmmaking approach of Stanley Kubrick, with dashes of Hitchock’s Vertigo (1958) and a hefty dose of the Rock Hudson-starring Seconds (1966). It’s like a film drawn from a non-existent Philip K. Dick short story, but the mix of elements and the stylised approach to them more often obscure the storytelling than provide insight or revelation.

Opening in what seems to be an approximation of the real world, Brand New-U spirals off into the kind of futuristic environment that might have appeared in an old episode of the BBC’s 1960’s SF anthology show Out of the Unknown. Lachlan Nieboer and Nora-Jane Noone make for attractive leads as the couple separated by questions of identity, but sometimes the complexity of the material seems beyond them both.

When his girlfriend Nadia (Noone) is violently kidnapped, Slater (Neiboer) follows her to Brand New-U and accepts their offer of a ‘new life’ in an attempt to find her. It’s unclear where or what this ‘new life’ is (Virtual reality? The future? An alternative dimension?), but it offers the same drudgery as any other, apparently. As with much of Brand New-U, the ‘rules’ of this world are unclear and character motivations muddled, so it is difficult to care for or really engage with either of the lead characters.

Visually, the world of Brand New-U is well executed (and like Narcopolis, another EIFF movie, clearly realised on a very limited budget). It is certainly overlong and the second half (much of which resembles bits of the James Bond movie Skyfall) could easily have lost 10 minutes, perhaps resulting in a sharper film. As it is, the deliberate distancing techniques employed, the coldness of the filmmaking, and the deliberately paced revelations can lead to audience disengagement rather than a thrilling experience.

Verdict: Interesting ideas, but muddled execution leave the viewer cold. 4/10

Brian J. Robb

For further details visit Edinburgh International Film Festival

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