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Realive Review

Realive is a 2017 sci-fi drama about a man who is diagnosed with a disease and decides to freeze his body, only to be awakened decades later to become the first man to be revived in history.

Most argue that our own mortality is what defines us, that we die so others may live and carry on what is learned before. That’s not to say we don’t want to live longer and see what happens in the future; for many it is an aching, waking dream, pushing science to look for ways to extend whatever time we have. Movies have greatly explored the theme of course and now comes Mateo Gil‘s curious, thoughtful Realive, a philosophically-challenging experiment on what it means to be alive, a somber film that teeters precariously on a very thin line that mostly delivers on what amounts to a heavy, emotional experience.

Marc Jarvis (Tom Hughes) is a young, good-looking and moderately successful artist involved with on-again-off-again lover Naomi (Oona Chaplin). It’s a typical life it seems until suddenly he’s diagnosed with inoperable, terminal cancer. He’s given a year to live and goes about trying to put things in order, telling friends and family and passing on his business. Fearful of the coming pain and wanting control of his fate, he decides to be cryogenically frozen, hoping science will discover a cure and a way to bring him back. Nearly a century later, the technology has matured and Marc is selected to be the very first “resurrected” human. He is partnered with Nurse Elizabeth (Charlotte Le Bon), who, among others, tends to his rehabilitation. Now he must cope with great loss and a new beginning, but the future is not quite the dream he’d hoped for.

Keeping itself well distant of the genre’s action roots, Realive is a much more trippy journey, a slow, pondering visual trek through one man’s divided life, and there’s a lot that’s very good about what Marc experiences. This is not exaggerated science fiction but rather an earnest and grounded attempt to make a plausible, realistic story, even as it creates a fantastical future world, akin to something out of Star Trek, where Gene Roddenberry envisioned a kind of sterile utopia. In this film’s future, romantic love is all but dismissed and sex is reduced to casual commonplace among anyone, everyone is genetically modified before birth to be attractive, and an invention called the ‘Mind Writer’ allows the wearer to retrieve any memory, even if they themselves have forgotten. This is how Marc fills in the gaps of his past, and we learn about all the mistiming he’s had with Naomi and ultimately, her fate. He also discovers other secrets in the facility where he’s kept, and it has profound consequences.

This leaves Marc extremely isolated in his new life, tethered to an umbilical machine (a symbolic baby motif that compares his two ‘births’) that keeps him alive as his manufactured bones and organs adjust. There’s a good many questions the film settles on about all of this and most are worth digging into, we naturally curious about our inevitable death, and it’s inherently compelling. Often jarringly so. However, it is also a sometimes talky, expositional story that eventually becomes stagnant in its message. It relies on constant narration by Marc to detail the process and experiences both before and after his rebirth, comparing himself to Frankenstein’s monster. This is the film’s greatest weakness, substituting a stoic sometimes pedantic voice for a more illustrative exploration. It’s a big hurdle. However, it’s hard to dismiss Gil’s tremendous ambition, even as some of it wallows in weighty existentialism. It tries hard to cull as much emotional impact as it can, with a sweeping stringy score and lots of impressive imagery, and darn it all if it doesn’t often work. Unconventional and dark, Realive is a weird and tantalizing glimpse into possibilities.

Realive Review

Movie description: Realive is a 2017 sci-fi drama about a man who is diagnosed with a disease and decides to freeze his body, only to be awakened decades to become the first man to be revived in history.

Director(s): Mateo Gil

Actor(s): Tom Hughes, Charlotte Le Bon, Oona Chaplin

Genre: Sci-fi

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