Updated: Sep 3, 2020
Directed by: #TomGatley
Written by: #TomGatley
Expiry is the debut feature from writer-director Tom Gatley and follows a struggling couple who wake up one morning to find themselves unable to touch one another. The film is a small-scale sci-fi with a humanistic focus that has a lot to say about relationships in the modern world. Superbly executed on a meagre budget, Gatley succeeds at building and presenting a cold, dystopian world riddled with mistrust and paranoia.
Sofia (Sarah-Louise Tyler) and Jamie Cooper (Richard Miltiadis) have been together for five years after making their bond permanent through a union symbolised by electronic wristbands. After going through a rough patch, the two awake to find that their wristbands are glowing red and they’re unable to make physical contact. Adamant that their relationship has not expired, they search desperately for a way to save their marriage and avoid potential consequences from a mysterious government.
Right from the off, Gatley establishes a feeling of paranoia in Expiry. Sofia and Jamie fret at what consequences may come from the supposed ending of their union, and their concerns appear warranted, as shady figures soon appear in the couple’s lives. Gatley utilises imposing shots of the towering cityscape to always remind us that the characters are under the thumb of a greater power. The director also feeds off of the fear of the unknown, as new characters and situations are always greeted with suspicion.
Narratively, the film is told in two parts, with Sofia and Jamie’s ongoing relationship struggles being intercut with the pair speaking separately with a counsellor. While these latter scenes do pose pondering questions that come into relevancy later on, they often kill the momentum of the engrossing, thriller-esque main story. Unfortunately, the plot does lose steam in the final act with a poorly executed and tonally inconsistent action set piece leading to a rushed and somewhat unclear conclusion.
One of the biggest takeaways from the film is what it has to say about relationships in the modern-day. Gatley presents a world in which no couple is truly happy as everyone is under constant pressure to have a successful partnership at all times. While this somewhat pessimistic outlook feels a little cold at times, it does raise relevant criticisms of society’s expectations of relationships in the 21st century as well as of attitudes toward immigration and marriage.
For a low-budget indie feature, the film does a magnificent job of presenting a functioning and believable Orwellian dystopia. The clever use of props, lighting, and a couple of very impressive special effects make the world of Expiry feel real. The cinematography from Andy Toovey also helps to set a bleak tone as he uses a dim colour palette to great effect, giving the city a stark appearance.
However well established the setting is, though, Expiry wouldn’t be as convincing were it not for the host of great performances, particularly from the two leads Richard Miltiadis and Sarah-Louise Tyler. The pair sell their state of paranoia successfully, and you really believe that they are fearful of the fate that may await them. Less convincing is their chemistry as a couple, but considering the majority of the film focuses on their relationship struggles, this isn’t a major issue.
With Expiry, Tom Gatley delivers a very well-executed sci-fi that has a compelling message. While the plot can feel meandering at points and the finale leaves much to be desired, the film is elevated significantly by its enthralling Orwellian world, sombre tone, and bleak visuals. It’s a stellar first feature film with its successes showing promise for the writer-director’s future projects.