dir. D.M. Cunningham
D.M. Cunningham’s feature debut is certainly timely, chronicling the devastating impact of a respiratory illness on an initially disconnected group of strangers. As these individuals go about their day-to-day lives we see more and more signs of a virus taking hold as the narrative aims to show the sprawling nature of an incoming outbreak.
The potency of the plot comes from clear real-world parallels, but this shared experience is perhaps the film’s undoing: given the context which viewers now bring to infection movies like this means we may expect more. Tonally Cunningham’s film lacks a sense of the ridiculous that may have allowed it to be more forgivingly assessed: instead it takes itself seriously, and so sadly falls short of its own ambitions.
Nevertheless the scope and scale it’s aiming for in narrative, craft and themes is admirable. There are genuine moments that unnerve, flashes of brilliance if one can endure a story set during a pandemic. The cinematography boasts beautiful compositions, the effects work conjures nightmarish images, and an effective ensemble at times breaks the heart. However the whole feels frustrating, lacking a character to hook on to and anchor proceedings. Introducing a new focus every 15 minutes or so gives things an anthology feel and, sadly, undoes all the good work as ultimately we don’t have anyone to care about: they’re all just going to suffer before we move onto the next victim, with little weight being felt beyond a sense of inevitable death.