Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Alejandro Adams' follow-up film to striking debut Around The Bay is - despite its sci-fi genre trappings - essentially concerned with many of the same issues, namely relationships and communication and their predisposition for fragility, breakdown and, in the case of the corporate vision presented here, manipulation.

Set in a near-future or, perhaps, merely an alternative present, the loose central narrative concerns the eponymous Canary Industries, medical scientists who have perfected the art of organ transplant, which, in the world of the film is just as well, since it seems organ failure is vastly more prevalent. The techniques may be perfect but those who receive the organs are more fallible and, thanks to a neat clause in the contract, anyone not thought to be carrying out the right sort of husbandry with their internal organs can have them repossessed, to be replaced with a blue, Swarfega-like, substance which may, or may not, keep the recipient alive.

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In charge of these repossessions is the central, silent character (Carla Pauli), who looks on dispassionately at the recipients and, if they are found wanting, swoops in the manner of a clinical avenging angel. Unlike her overmasters - who, like those whose organs she takes, seem unaware of her presence when she visits their offices periodically - she is a physical intervention, not a verbal one.

Despite this, she is not presented here as an automaton, but rather as a loner, looking in at the lives of others, and relishing a tentative connection with them through the actions she performs.

The story outlined above is one open to interpretation. That is this reviewer's take on what is happening but it is perfectly possible that a viewer next to me might have an altogether different notion. The presentation is ambivalent, with just enough of a suggestion of conspiracy theory to leave you in doubt. Because the action is wilfully obtuse, the film is less successful than its predecessor. Where Around The Bay invited us to share the emotions of the characters, here we are pushed away from them, as alienated as the silent reaper. This distancing from the main players is, no doubt, deliberate - as with Adam's previous movie, it is clear he is firmly in charge of his vision - but just because something is done on purpose, does not make it successful as a device.

The film still scores heavily when emotion is allowed to creep in, particularly in those segments involving children, with Adams yet again displaying an enviable knack of capturing them at the natural best. So a scene in which a little girl is being presented with the adult concept of having her organs taken back because she won't eat her breakfast and another in which the 'silent reaper' lets a girl 'help' her in her work are both emotionally challenging and flesh-crawlingly sinister. While the Chinese puzzle of plot doesn't fully justify the attention it demands of the audience, there is no doubting Adams' bravery, complex vision or talent. It seems, however, that he is one of those rare directors who is better suited to directing films based on ideas he has forged entirely on his own.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2009
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Futuristic examination of societal and relationship dysfunction, viewed through the prism of organ transplant.
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Director: Alejandro Adams

Writer: Alejandro Adams, based on an idea by Michael Samuelson, Sammy Samuelson

Starring: Carla Pauli, Eli Kramer, Larissa Kasian, Jennifer Latch, Galen Howard, Arielle Abalos-Castro, Ailsa Adams, Arseniy Arkhipov, Vonn Scott Bair, Boris, Belle Borovik, Brian Buck, Mariah Castle, Susan Cochran, Yvonne Cornell

Year: 2009

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: US


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