When Dillon (Barry Finnegan) hears about a company, Life Tracker Limited, claiming that it can utilize DNA to predict someone’s life, he is intrigued. Driven forward by his friends’ criticisms that he never finishes anything he starts, Dillon commits to making a documentary with his friend Scott (Matt Dallas), and Scott’s girlfriend Bell (Rebecca Marshall), about Life Tracker. As the days go by, however, Life Tracker’s profile grows as the technology progresses, and Dillon finds himself smack-dab in the middle of an increasing personal crisis.
Now anybody can get their DNA tested and get a report predicting their lives, except the report requires a third-party to decipher the report. The people tasked with deciphering the reporters, known as readers, are designated, and charge accordingly, based on their accuracy percentage. In other words, it’s an in-exact science. And at first, the reports, containing everything but the date the person will die, cause enough trouble as it is. Tiny biological revelations in the reports for Dillon, Scott and Bell almost destroy their friendship. When the death dates are eventually revealed… let’s just say that drama ensues across the globe.
Joe McClean’s Life Tracker plays out as a serious mockumentary, running through various thought experiments regarding fate, and whether knowledge of one’s fate is what creates it, or whether it is what it is, and knowledge, or lack thereof, has no bearing whatsoever. In that way, the film can get your brain spinning.
As can the explanations for how Life Tracker works. Prints, surveys, databases, readers, ratings, death dates… I get the attempt to ground the entire affair in science convincing enough that someone watching this could think that, honestly, maybe we’re not that far away from this DNA equivalent of advanced palm reading. At the same time, there is a dehumanizing effect when the new scientific terminology is utilized all the time, because it is somewhat divorced from life as we all know it now. It’s not a major criticism, just something I noticed as my brain started to tune it out in spots.
The film does attempt to combat that, however, by focusing more on the personal dynamics of Dillon, Scott and Bell. Knowing the science isn’t as important as knowing what the science’s revelations have caused. The turmoil in the friendship of the trio grounds the film in humanity when things get too theoretical.
As a mockumentary of a low budget documentary, it has all the technical issues one would associate with that form. And when it doesn’t, as when the camera equipment is supposed to be malfunctioning, said technical issues are manufactured for effect. And it works fine; I think you are drawn into it, and the film actually looks pretty good, though Dillon does reference how the doc isn’t as polished as he’d like often enough that you wonder if it’s faux-filmmaker Dillon talking or the actual filmmaker McClean reminding you that, hey, it’s supposed to look rough sometimes. Likely a bit of both.
For me, I enjoyed the philosophical aspect of the film more so than I needed any answers to the questions it raises. And I think the film gets that that will be its strength, because it can be pretty ambiguous in spots, including the climax. That ambiguity lets you run with the ideas presented how you like, and works here as a continuation of the overall thought experiment.
All that said, if you’re not interested in engaging the brain on this sort of level, the film could be seen as just another mockumentary where someone talks to the camera. I think its level of entertainment is directly related to how engaged you get, so if you’re a passive observer with this one, it might not entirely work. The pieces are all there, but you’ve got to get mentally involved to have real fun here.
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