Directed by: #SebCox
Written by: Seb Cox
A surreal yet poignant vision from writer-director Seb Cox about mental health and the isolation of emotional trauma. We see Harry dressed in a white dress shirt and black slacks but adorning a robotic helm in the style of vintage 1950’s tin robot stands motionless against the mundane backdrops of his existence. Harry Bot 9000 initially may seem like a quirky tale about a person hiding from their emotions through a character like 2014’s Frank but quickly the reality to this insanity becomes eerily clear. Harry suffers from depersonalisation disorder and Cox has the film represent a mind at war with itself as the imagery and editing emphasises the character’s refusal to confront his truth.
There are lots of visual techniques on display that makes Harry Bot 9000 an interesting viewing, how it has the audience contemplate what is real as Harry’s mind continues to unravel. The imagery of robots, stop signs, morning routines all speak to the themes of automation and how Harry wants to forgo his own freedom in the aftermath of his trauma. Cox’s direction and editing have scenes bathed in red, green, intercut with flashbacks as Harry and his former partner Lucy be visited by a psychiatrist character. Although Laurence McCartney’s performance feels disembodied and we never see the character's eyes, questioning whether the psychiatrist is another piece of Harry’s broken psyche, an extension beyond the robot. Despite how strange the film can get, Cox does deliver clarity to Harry and Lucy’s story with a tragic reveal that places new tragic contexts on the film’s distinctive imagery.
Performance-wise, Harry Bot 9000 is grounded in its ominous editing and cinematography by the detached but layered performance from John Andrews as Harry and the affection from Olivia Sewell as Lucy. Andrews keeps his performance as Harry intriguing, never letting the monotony become too disengaging and making his sudden emotional outbursts feel realistic rather than overcompensation. Sewell’s performance is the lightning rod for the audience and Harry in the surreal emotional nightmare of his fractured mind as she refuses to be part of the fantasy he has concocted for himself. Cox uses this to make the imagery more effective as Harry loses control of his own identity around her, editing revealing the robot helm to be a figment of his imagination rather than a physical extension of his delusion. Sewell’s character is how Cox delivers the message in how grief is not a journey to be taken alone, Lucy’s presence forces memory and reality to bleed through the editing and Harry’s perceptions.
A well-edited, directed piece from Cox who effectively uses his imagery in a minimalist way that doesn’t have Harry Bot 9000 descend into pure pretentious drivel. Its themes of mental illness, connections, and routine resonate through the performances and in how Cox directs the audience through all the bizarre symbolism. Delivering an important message on the importance of communication and loved ones in our most vulnerable moments.