There’s a reason that so many filmmaking challenges today choose science fiction as their fighting grounds. It’s the same reason that many film school lecturers would advise that you steer clear of dystopia. It is a genre dedicated to new ideas, innovative set pieces, and terrific budgets. Many of film’s finest have tried and failed, levelling studios in their attempt. What better ammunition to give a creative greenhorn?
In short film there’s rarely time to waste, the setup to a story (let alone world) needs to be engaging and informative. Modern audiences haven’t the patience for anything else. Thus Charles Whiteley delivers a bold opening to his dystopia. Pushing through the sickly green colours and into the deliberate score you’re informed exactly how to feel. A little queasy. You need to take your ‘Lucids’, a luminous blue pill designed to be ‘your daily happiness companion that everyone needs.’ Sure enough as we meet our suburban family, they’re already popping them away and laughing, a little too hard, at their own dad jokes. Although if my family car was a classic Jaguar I’d be laughing like a hyena too, pills or not.
These queasy feelings are mirrored in the teenage expression of our sour-faced protagonist, James (Rufus Shaljean). He is modelled like many before him in the cinematic future of a pharmaceutically enhanced society. One is reminded of the stoicism that Christian Bale gave in Equilibrium (2002) as well as Harry Enfield’s beloved character Kevin the Teenager. His father (Anthony Oxford) plays the clown of the family, eagerly quipping at every opportunity whilst his mother (Jo Ball) keeps a brave face in the time of middle class disaster. James has been expelled from university, now returning home. His Air Max 97’s hint at the fact he might not have been part of the riot club. The fact James hasn’t been taking his lucids might reason why he’s here. Of course like all well-meaning parents, his mother suspects he hasn’t been taking them, even going so far as to bravely root around his bedroom to make this shocking discovery. She does not take it well but we can cut her some slack, finding out your son isn’t a pill addict can be challenging.
Lauren Thompson’s production design is executed in a dynamic sense, no room feeling exactly from this century. The downstairs may loosely resemble suburbia, but the upstairs looks to be a searing log cabin retreat. We can see that this is made in the time of Black Mirror’s monopoly on high concept sci-fi. Cinematographer Natasha Duursma shoots wide and daringly. The trembling car mounted introduction reveals her desire to show off her creative arsenal. Even the intense close-ups on faces are pushed to the limit, delivering the best part of what this film does well. Getting right into the actors face and using it as a landscape. These close ups are also detrimental to the film as Whiteley blocks his characters exceedingly far apart, exercising social distancing well before, or in fact ahead, of it’s time.
The film culminates in Orwellian fashion; pulling a fast and abrupt gut punch on any viewer hoping for otherwise.
You can watch Charles Whiteley’s ‘In One’s Right Mind’ here: In One’s Right Mind on Vimeo
Reviewed by Oliver Ward