Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Browse is a character study which keeps the character to a minimum."

Richard (Lukas Haas) keeps his furniture wrapped in plastic. It makes him look like a serial killer, says the superintendent of his building, his self-appointed friend. Richard simply says that he doesn't want to get it dirty. He likes everything in his life to be be neatly packaged and ready to move on. He's a man who lies in his neighbour's bed after sex arranging another hookup whilst she washes. Nothing is fixed or permanent; although he's always online, he has few real points of connection.

If Richard does resemble a serial killer, it's Patrick Bateman, simply because there's the same sense here that nothing really exists beneath the surface. Like Bateman, he has a work colleague who provides the only real human warmth in his life - someone who might feel differently if she knew how he thinks about women. There's no real sense of aggression or malice here, however. Richard simply lacks any real interest in people - until things start to go wrong, and then he starts to wonder if he can trust them.

In 2019 alone, around one in 15 people in the US fell victim to some degree of identity theft. The internet has made it easy, especially when people let their guard down and share things with strangers that they would never feel comfortable with being public knowledge. Then there's the risk of getting caught up in other people's sharing. Richard's constant trawling of online dating sites makes him an easy mark. His casual reliance on automation to take care of every aspect of his finances means there's a lot that can go wrong very quickly, and he's slow to spot it when it does. As a consequence, he very quickly finds his life spiralling down the drain.

Within this very thinly written character, Haas strives to establish some nucleus of personality. He's surprisingly successful at engaging audience sympathy, especially in light of the fact that what we do learn about Richard is often unlikeable. This is a man who, when problems do arise, immediately centres them outside himself. Whatever real suffering he may be experiencing is clearly mixed with paranoia, and his behaviour becomes less and less rational. In particular, he becomes convinced that a singer he met on a dating site is somehow connected with his downfall - and the viewer has increasing reason to fear for her safety.

With an ending that invites the viewer to question how much of Richard is left, Browse is a character study which keeps the character to a minimum. It's a thoughtful, curious piece of work which may not quite be successful in finding its destination but which manages to intrigue along the way.

Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2020
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Browse packshot
A solitary man becomes convinced that someone hacked into all of his devices and that they're being used to manipulate and control him.
Amazon link

Director: Mike Testin

Writer: Mario Carvalhal

Starring: Sarah Rafferty, Chloe Bridges, Lukas Haas, Jocelin Donahue

Year: 2020

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: US


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