Radius

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Radius
"Writer Caroline Labrèche and co-director Steeve Léonard use science fiction framing to invite viewers along on a journey that will take them somewhere very different."

After being in a car crash, it's normal to experience some disorientation. It takes Liam (Diego Klattenhoff) some time to work out his own name, and he has no real memory of who he is - or was. There are just flashes. That, however, is the least of his problems. A crow falling out of the sky feels like an omen. Finding a diner full of dead people is deeply distressing. But nothing is as terrifying as the realisation that it's not a disease, not a terrorist attack, not the end of the world - it's him. Anybody who comes within a 50 foot radius of him dies.

This is the kind of high concept stuff that it's very hard to sustain for an hour and a half. Radius does so by drawing on a deep logic that goes beyond the superficial questions immediately prompted by the situation. It also introduces a second amnesiac character, nicknamed Jane (Charlotte Sullivan), who is able to approach Liam safely. They quickly find out that their situations are interconnected, but working out how is a much bigger challenge.

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Writer Caroline Labrèche and co-director Steeve Léonard use science fiction framing to invite viewers along on a journey that will take them somewhere very different. There are dramatic action sequences. There's gradual romantic bonding between the two leads. There's a constant search for answers, but all of these things keep us looking in the wrong directions. By the time the truth is revealed, the characters - and the audience - are looking at it from unfamiliar perspectives.

Thoughtful and emotionally hard-hitting, Radius evokes Blade Runner with its questions about what comprises the essential self. Alone and shorn of the framework of memories, Liam and Jane are vulnerable but also free to choose their own course. Memory and engagement with the wider world, like growing up, gradually narrow the field, constraining their options, seemingly limiting not only what they can do but who they can be.

Radius could easily be disorientating all the way through. Fortunately, Labrèche and Léonard know when to step back from the questioning, and maintain a strong sense of momentum throughout. Initially stilted acting (entirely appropriate given the characters' situation) gives way to powerful work in the final scenes. Not every viewer will feel able to bear with it, and some have evidently been disappointed by the absence of more formal explanations for the events within it, but for those possessed of a healthy respect for mystery in its own right, it's a treat.

Reviewed on: 26 Aug 2017
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After a car crash a man is left with no memory... and discovers the horrible truth: anyone who comes within a 50-foot radius of him dies instantly.

Director: Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard

Writer: Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard

Starring: Diego Klattenhoff, Charlotte Sullivan, Brett Donahue, Nazariy Demkowicz, Terry Ray

Year: 2017

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: Canada


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