“Immortality is only a question of time!” enthuses the good Dr. West (Julio Perillan) in promotional appearances for his company, Prodigy, and its “Lazarus Project.”
As this is somewhere in the not-terribly-distant future, the “time” is now. Lazarus is all about resurrecting the cryogenically dead.
But as Patient Zero in this project ponders in his narration, is that what “humanity’s greatest dream” really is?
Writer-director Mateo Gil (“Open Your Eyes,” “The Sea Inside”) mulls this over in the moody, chatty science fiction drama “Realive,” tackling one of the oldest tropes in all of sci fi.
Marc (Tom Hughes of British TV’s “Victoria”) was a handsome young ad agency owner, diagnosed with incurable throat cancer. He’s got a year to live, and his ex-girlfriend Naomi (Oona Chaplin of “Quantum of Solace”) is determined to spend it with him. She’ll make every minute count, make up for every minute they didn’t get to spend together and never, ever let the thought of “she wants to get into the will” enter the conversation.
Because this is true love.
But Marc makes other plans, researching cryogenics — the means of freezing a body until that future date that science can revive it, repair its fatal damage and bring you back to life.
And it’s worked, in Marc’s case. We know, because he’s narrating for “you, in the future.” We see that resurrection, hear him grouse about the downside of being brought back (using the Lazarus scene from Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” to make his point).
Gil creates a familiarly austere, polished and underpopulated future of pristine labs, mood lighting and updated medical uniforms. He gives Marc the classic “Now that I’m awake” questions.
“Does everybody have spaceships? Do people live on Mars?”
Charlotte LeBon (“The Hundred Foot Journey”) is Marc’s personal nurse, his “partner” in his recovering in this less sexually complicated future. No, “couple” is an old-fashioned concept, as out of date as slavery. So yes, sex is on the table. Ahem.
But one item of future-tech that our writer-director includes leaves some lumps in the batter. MindWriter is a wearable gadget that lets you summon up all manner of memories. And Marc, tripping through the cruelty of childhood, the pranks of his teens and the magic of first love, begins to question this highly technical/surgically invasive (gory muscle insertion/organ replacement scenes abound) quest for something that isn’t going to improve upon the short life he lived, or the love he feels for long-gone Naomi.
“Why do we never feel anything that intense again?”
It’s up to Chaplin, you-know-who’s granddaughter, to give the picture it’s great moment of angst and heart. “Your life is not yours alone,” she reminds Marc. Go ahead, freeze yourself and come back in the future. But “Who is going to CARE about you?”
Gil is flirting with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” territory here, but he’s not quite able to summon up the romantic longing, the wistful memories of the past of that film. Some of it is in the performances, but most of it falls back on tone. The frosty, omnipresent voice-over, the cool blue lighting, the blueish set design (splashes of bloody crimson jolt us), the muted voices all rob the picture of drama and heightened emotions.
Technically spare and smart, fascinating in the dilemma it wrestles with, “Realive” is, in the end, too chilly to warm up to.
MPAA Rating: Unrated, with surgical gore, sex scenes and profanity
Credits: Written and directed by Mateo Gil. A SyFy Films release.
Running time: 1:47