Written and directed by Simon Pummell.
Starring Nora-Jane Noone, Nick Blood and Lachlan Nieboer.
None Of Us Are As Unique As We Think. Identicals is a highly unconventional romantic thriller: an obsessive love story stripped down and re-arranged into the looping logic of a nightmare.
From British writer-director Simon Pummell, Identicals seeks to make real a premise that in a parallel universe, there is a version of yourself that is enjoying a better life than you.
Built within the conventions of the sci-fi genre, Identicals is, or rather attempts to be, a slow burning, thoughtful and introspective film, which chooses to show rather than tell, and often leaves the viewer to draw their own conclusions based on the loose evidence presented to them.
I’ll start with what was good about Identicals. A haunting and enduring score, which complemented what were overall well thought-out visuals, was certainly one of the highlights of it. Cinematography introduced the sometimes familiar and sometimes alien world of protagonist Slater. Sometimes Identicals felt visually like a late-90s Britain, with its grainy aesthetic and the rawness of its two leads, Lachlan Nieboer as Slater and Nora-Jane Noone as his girlfriend Nadia. Nieboer is at times a vital part of the atmospheric overtones of Identicals, as his body language and face become more a part of the script than his sparse dialogue. This seems to work for the film, especially it has such a deliberately incoherent arc. I went into Identicals without doing any research whatsoever on the film, and found that its presentation as an infinite loop of events, Harold Pinter-esque in its execution, is exact.
Identicals plays off of plenty of tropes typical of these quiet romantic sci-fi films, but does so in a less intelligent manner than recent efforts. Immediately I think of similar movies where a male protagonist must save his female love interest within the context of an abnormal, science fiction world, often with advanced technology or social structures: Her, Ex Machina, Gattaca and so forth. What makes Identicals, ultimately, a failure, is its attempts to reach so desperately for something meaningful and beautiful within its story and falling so incredibly, horrendously short.
Identicals, as a film, is very pleased with itself. It thinks that it is oh, so very clever. It is not. Its premise is unoriginal and even then executed poorly. Its actors are bored and listless. Its dialogue is half-arsed. Its action is non-existent despite plenty of build up. The only thing, truly that Identicals redeems itself on is its ability to build tension to fever pitch, but even this success is short lived as it does so little to make such a carefully constructed atmosphere worth it.
The idea of finding a doppelganger and overtaking their life is simple enough, but Pummell over complicates everything by trying to be too clever with his script and cinematography – which is completely bereft of symbolism which could have made this plot at least marginally cohesive – and making his characters ‘mysterious’ by choosing to have them perform almost entirely mute. Both Slater and Nadia are disappointingly two-dimensional. Their romance seems contrived. Even Nieboer and Noone’s poorly cut sex scene is annoyingly lacking in any kind of sex appeal. As with so many sci-fi romances of late, Identicals is a perfect example of a writer-director creating a world and inserting himself into it poorly disguised as the protagonist. In Identicals it’s so achingly obvious that Pummell has constructed a fantasy world wherein he is a brooding, mysterious and handsome hero, and a woman is in desperate need of saving. A life he will never achieve and highly ironic, considering the premise of the film. Both characters lack any real personality. Identicals so transparently tries to present itself as Inception-level intelligent, when it is a piss-poor, incohesive mess, within which even the most reaching analyses cannot derive any kid of meaning.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★