Simon J is a programmer living in a dilapidated building “somewhere”.
Is it the future? It certainly seems to be, but with the way technology moves forward it could be just a few months from now. Simon writes code for a mysterious organization. Lately, he’s been having trouble with his work. His mind wanders, he’s restless and every time he comes home he finds an empty box sitting on the floor.
His neighbors include Derrick, who’s building an artificial “son” Adam, Trish, a sultry nurse who works in a cancer ward and plays S&M games with another neighbor, Then there’s Howard who used to build miniature robot bugs but now bums around as a janitor; and finally the landlord who oversees the entire building with a security camera system just short of voyeurism.
They seem to be craving things. Derrick wants chips, Trish wants orange juice, the neighbor wants soda, the landlord wants meat and Simon can’t stop drinking milk despite the fact that he’s allergic to it. All except Howard, who is strangely unaffected.
The problems grow worse, Simon is unraveling, his code is infected with a Virus and he can’t finish his work. Meanwhile, all around the world men and women are dying from some terrible disease. Newspapers report the escalating death tolls and some strange murders involving stolen brains.
I saw this film at the Fantasia festival in Montreal and the filmmakers were in attendance, along with the always entertaining Udo Kier (also in the movie playing Derrick). After the credits rolled I was able to shake their hand and tell them how much I enjoyed the film. In both my conversations with Jeff Renfroe and Marteinn Thorsson I mentioned how the movie channeled the spirit of Cronenberg and “Videodrome”.
You know what though? Having slept on it, I don’t think it’s an apt comparison at all anymore. The film doesn’t really look like Cronenberg and if it echoes “Videodrome” it’s merely a coincidence. No, what threw me for a loop was that this is an honest to god SCIENCE-FICTION film. Not a Sci-Fi/Action extravaganza. There are no aliens, no monsters, no explosions, no guns, no saving the world, no spaceships, no big action sequences, none of that.
This is a movie about ideas. It’s about what’s around us and no one notices. It’s about why we buy soda and watch shitty movies. About why we dress a certain way and think a certain way. This is the type of movie that you discuss at the coffee shop after seeing it. It’s an intelligent film that doesn’t spoonfeed you its conclusions.
Sci-Fi “flicks” are all based on stories and ideas created by better writers over a hundred years ago. Science-Fiction, like “One Point 0” is, concerns the human condition. Anything futuristic is merely mood and setting. That’s what it shares with Cronenberg, that dismissive attitude towards the movie cliches of the genre.
Jeremy Sisto plays Simon J as a twitchy man trying to understand what’s going on despite the fact that the people responsible are fully in control of everything he sees and hears. Deborah Unger is perfect as his sultry neighbor who seems like she walked off an ad for “something”. Lance Henriksen plays Howard the janitor as a man with a secret that he’s in no hurry to tell. Udo plays, well… Udo, as a wild scientist who’s invented a form of intelligence that seems to want to protect Simon from something.
The movie does have a few flaws. Niles, a courier friend of Simon, is just thrown into the story without introduction and the film can edge on the cryptic at times. However, these points don’t really detract from the overall work, which is excellent. There is a scene later in the film involving unwanted verbal product placement that could easily have degenerated into comedy but directors Renfroe and Thorsson handle it with a sure hand. Their next film is called “Stray Toasters” and I guarantee that it will be something to watch for when it comes out.