LX 2048 (2020), the new film written and directed by Guy Moshe, boasts an intriguing concept: Humankind has destroyed the ozone layer, exposing everyone to so much radiation during the day that it’s deadly to be outside. People now sleep all day and work and/or do their leisure activities at night via virtual reality (VR).
Unfortunately, the lofty ideas in the film are hampered by a presumably low budget and a plodding script, which makes the movie a chore to watch.
Adam Bird (James D’Arcy) is an anomaly in the world of 2048. Rather than conform like everyone else has since the “Big Heat Up,” he prefers to keep a normal routine, which here means putting on a radiation suit and heading into the office during the day when only “augmented day workers” (clones) are around. You know he’s a rebel because he drives his convertible with the top down while the yellowish-orange sky looms menacingly above.
Adam is in therapy as well. His marriage to his wife, Reena (Anna Brewster) is on the rocks, and his kids ignore him when gets home in favor of playing in their VR world. As he walks past his kids’ rooms, one son is rather disturbingly miming shooting people down while shouting “Die! Die! Die!” Adam spends some of his downtime with his VR lover, Maria (Gabrielle Cassi), which does not go over well with Reena.
Because he insists on going out during the day, Adam’s therapist is a clone whom he frequently accuses of having no feelings. Both the clone doctor and Adam’s wife consistently urge him to take the government-issued drug, LithiumX, as does everyone else he comes into contact with because depression is rampant in the scorching world.
On top of the marital strife and depressing life, Adam also learns he has a mysterious heart problem that is fatal. Luckily, he and his wife have “Premium 3” insurance, meaning once he dies, a clone of him will be sent to assume his life and take care of his wife and kids.
This premise could be very intellectually stimulating, except the script constantly favors talk over action. We get occasional intriguing glimpses of this future time (e.g., CGI super-fast monorails speeding on tracks high in the sky), but we rarely get to see it. I mean, you can tell it’s the future because everything is sleek and modern and minimalist and clean, but what we mostly get is heavy exposition, and all that talk gets old very fast.
Adam talks to his therapist-clone about human connection; he talks to his wife about being normal and what love is; and he talks at length with Donald Stein (Delroy Lindo), the “father of human cloning” who won’t help Adam by cloning a new heart for him, but will share in several philosophical digressions.
He also talks to several people via his VR headset, but we never get to see them or their avatars, and it’s frustrating. We don’t even get to see Adam’s eyes when he’s talking because of the large VR headset he wears. I get that writer/director Moshe wants to focus on the ideas, but having them spelled out so exactingly instead of letting the characters express any sort of interiority without words was mind-numbing.
The story also goes back and forth in time. We see Adam in his present and past, such as when the insurance agent sells him and Reena on Premium 3, or when their marriage breaks completely. It’s like being with Abe Simpson in terms of level of detours in a story; every time there is forward momentum, there’s a pause to go back to something else. Flashbacks aren’t bad per se, but here, they wind up interrupting more interesting moments.
To their credit, both D’Arcy and Lindo give it their all. D’Arcy is particularly good with nuance when Adam confronts his own insecurities and failures; unfortunately, he is given many scenes where he has to emote to the back row as if he were on stage. There are several points where the film resembles a one-man play, actually, which does give D’Arcy the chance to shine in the quieter scenes, and he makes the most of those opportunities (a scene involving the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy from “Hamlet” is a highlight). Lindo is also good in his small role as the man who unleashed a hell of cloning he didn’t mean to.
The rest of the cast ranges from competent to downright awful. There’s a hoary cliché about getting better performances from a block of wood, and boy, does it ever apply here. On the other hand, it’s hard to do much with dialogue as clunky as “Even in my limited point of view as a newcomer to this world.” Moshe’s script is filled with such moments. To be honest, if I were Adam, I’d be diving for those LithiumX pills in a failing heartbeat.
The ideas pinging around in LX 2048—virtual vs. reality, real love vs. ideal love, humanity vs. cloning—are definitely worth exploring. I just wish they were explored in a better movie.
Rating 2 of 5 stars.
LX 2048 is currently available on VOD.