"Large's rather flat directorial style doesn't give Baylis much to work with."

In a near future world, overpopulation is straining resources. Disease ravages the population. Average life expectancy is just 40, almost as low as in Angola today. Thirty-nine-year-old Charlie (Marc Baylis) has just one aim in life - to get himself and his daughter places in the elite stronghold of Arcadia, where they could receive a cure and could live to as much as 130. With this in mind, he agrees to work for a government agency, tracking down possible terrorist Adam Black (Joseph Baker). But when he begins to suspect that there's an ulterior motive behind the hunt for Black, he finds himself increasingly troubled.

Tom Large burst onto the scene in 2014 with Beyond, an inventive take on themes of invasion and loss of control that did wonders with a small budget. Here, unfortunately, the slow pace and the silences that gave that film creepiness and emotional weight just make the story feel thin, like those BBC dramas that stretch two episodes' worth of plot over six. There's a lack of emotional complexity which leaves the meaningful pauses empty. The twists are predictable and there's simply not enough here that's original to give viewers philosophical questions to ponder.

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Large's rather flat directorial style doesn't give Baylis much to work with. Even more poorly served is Akie Kotabe as Jacob, the manager who communicates with him through a computer and therefore has nobody to act against, though he makes a brave effort and, towards the end, manages to breathe some life into his subplot. Gillian MacGregor, standout in Beyond, is the best thing about this film too. As the fugitive's wife she is the only one who really gets across the pressures the characters are under; when the camera moves away from her, it's as if the already muted visuals had faded into black and white.

Although its colour palette risks exacerbating the atmosphere of ennui, Arcadia does have a few visual ideas up its sleeve. It makes effective use of confined spaces, bringing the camera up close in narrow kitchens and cramped bathrooms to give us an immediate, pleasingly unexpounded sense of what overpopulation means - there are echoes of JG Ballard's Billennium here. Materials in set and costume design are heavily focused on synthetics, implying a loss of natural resources which is, sadly undermined a bit by a sequence in a forest. There are a number of places where the set-up oly makes sense if one overlooks certain factors, which is unfortunate because it undermines an attempt to bring different suspicions into focus.

All in all, Arcadia is a disappointment, but it's not clear that there was ever much potential in this tired story. Large already has two other films in production so it is to be hoped that this was just a blip and he will shortly return to form.

Reviewed on: 19 Oct 2016
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Arcadia packshot
In a dystopian future, a man is promised refuge for himself and his daughter if he will take out an enemy of the state.

Director: Tom Large

Writer: Tom Large

Starring: Marc Baylis, Joseph Baker, Gillian MacGregor, Rufus Wright, Akie Kotabe

Year: 2016

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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