DANCES WITH FILMS 2022 REVIEW! When science-fiction is done right, it should say something about the human condition. Star Trek and the original Twilight Zone come to mind as a series of morality tales. Dom Cutrupi’s Residents of Arcadia takes the morality tale to the virtual world.
Steve (Michael S. Perry) and Anika (Kamantha Naidoo) are two affluent social media influencers working on that next bit of viral content. Steve is a motivational speaker who uses words way too big to inspire the masses, and Anika is preparing her sponsored post spotlighting a new sunscreen line. As the pair prepares for dinner with friends, Anika questions whether they need to spend money on a maid for the evening.
During the party, a strange figure appears in the backyard, and then suddenly, a countdown timer appears on every mirror and screen in the house. When the timer hits zero, we meet Mira (Ishaval Gill) and Remo (Nick Preston), who have been living the life of Steve and Anika in virtual reality, and now the two have been kicked out of the program. Unfortunately, their virtual lives were so real that Mira and Remo are desperate to find the money to return to Arcadia or face deportation from Canada.
Residents of Arcadia uses a sci-fi Second Life type world to contrast the stories of hopeful immigrants to Canada against the lives of first-generation immigrants. The world of Arcadia was created to allow potential immigrants to discover if living in Canada was the right fit for them and vice versa.
“…Mira and Remo are desperate to find the money to return to Arcadia or face deportation from Canada.”
Two narratives are told in Dom Cutrupi’s tale. The immigrant story is much stronger than the mystery of VR Arcadia. A great deal of time is spent explaining what this world actually is — too much time. I feel like the plot was overly concerned with tying up too many loose ends. There’s a subplot of two hackers exposing Arcadia and various conspiracy theories stemming from its development company.
The amount of focus given to the sci-fi part is the only flaw in Residents of Arcadia. It’s a good idea, but there’s a balance issue regarding the overall story. For example, the first twenty minutes is spent living the lives of Steve and Anika. Then all of a sudden, when the truth is revealed, the story goes in a different direction with Mira and Remo, almost discarding the other two characters. That opening scene should have been cut to under ten minutes.
The film’s heart is Mira and Remo — a hopeful couple who desperately wants a better life in Canada. By living their lives through Steve and Anika, they lived the lives of successful media influencers and did precisely what the “internet” wanted them to be. However, when they got booted from the simulation, the pair were forced to come to grips with their true selves, light years different from their vapid alter egos. Acting-wise, Gill, and Preston bring Mira and Remo to life in the right way. They are ordinary people trying to find their way into a new world. Slowly their journey takes them to the right spot emotionally to pay off the ending.
Residents of Arcadia is an existential question about finding the meaning of home in a new land. It’s a unique story because Cutrupi tells it from the immigrant’s perspective, bringing much insight into the experience. But as good as the film is overall, its first act takes too long, overly explaining its VR conceit. It only gives us a taste of the immigrants’ experience, which could have easily been a feast in the end with the proper focus.
Residents of Arcadia screened at the 2022 Dances With Films.
For more information, visit the Residents of Arcadia official website.
"…an existential question about finding the meaning of home in a new land."