Directed by Nick Goulden
Starring Séan Browne, Jye Frasca & Michael Ryan
Review by Chris Olson
Enemies of the state beware, they…are…watching.
A common premise, Big Brother has often been the ever-present villain in a suspense thriller or action blockbuster. The idea that we are being watched, monitored, tagged, and splashed across PowerPoint presentations in some Pentagon boardroom is now so commonplace it no longer seems to worry us. Technology is too awesome to give up for something as trivial as privacy!
Nick Goulden’s short film, Reality Mine, however, approaches the subject with a fresh perspective, asking the question: what’s the tipping point between integrity and preservation?
Opening with a thrilling action sequence in which we see two figures, clad in guerrilla gear, blow up a building and accidentally killing someone in the process, the movie appears to pitch its tent in familiar territory of activism-cum-thriller. However, a shift occurs when the story focuses on unassuming family man Max (Séan Browne), who is lifted off the street and dumped into a bland hotel room opposite Charlie (Jye Frasca), a pencil-pusher from the Home Office. However, Charlie’s infinite access to pretty much anything that Max has ever said, emailed, watched or paid for, makes him a formidable presence in a world where knowledge equals power.
The plot then explores the dynamic between Max, who is the brother to one of the aforementioned terrorists, and Charlie, who is offering a deal to keep Max out of the inevitable public shaming, as long as he plays ball…
Online data, and our attitudes towards it, makes a compelling theme for a modern short film. On the one hand humans are enduringly suspicious of technological advancements, especially where privacy is concerned. And yet, specific developments have become so commonplace that the tide of change seems to sweep you up whether you want it to or not. Goulden plays on this theme throughout, and the choice to have Jye Frasca, far from an imposing or threatening bodily presence, as the Home Office shark was intentional. The idea that our enemy has already invaded our lives and just waits for the opportune moment to exploit us is quite terrifying.
Goulden takes this a step further as well, proposing a question through the character of Max (superbly played by Séan Browne): are we the summation of an endless stream of data and figures? Or would our “character” emerge regardless of the impressive amount of ammunition that could be used to manipulate us? Interestingly, we may not all be as heroic as we think we are, especially when the other side has a list of all the dodgy websites we have ever visited!
By the climax of the film, Max’s inner turmoil becomes a full-blown mental whirlwind in which his deepest, darkest secrets have been sucked from him and strewn across a hotel room desk.
Brilliantly paced and riddled with fine performances, Reality Mine is a short film that passes the Golden Test - yes, we wanted to see a full-length feature. Not only was the story compelling and the themes meatier than a horse burger scandal, there is a relevance here that audiences will, pardon the pun, connect with. Jye Frasca is a treat to watch but its Séan Browne who steals the scenes with a cleverly balanced depiction of anxiety and attempts of control when he holds none of the bargaining power.
There were moments where the film stumbled, such as a phenomenally retro overhead projector displaying all of Max’s email inboxes - it seemed to date the scene immediately, especially when you consider that, at the beginning of the movie, the bombers used a timer on an iPhone! Another aspect was some of Charlie’s threatening lines, which came across a little too dramatic for what was supposed to be an average office type. That being said, at not point is the dynamic between Charlie and Max anything but riveting.
Hats of to Lee Thorpe, for the pounding score which creates a lovely tension throughout the running time, as well as the superb editing by Marco Ruffatti - who allowed the scenes enough breathing time envelop the audience without letting them escape the intensity.
Overall, this is Goulden’s show, a conscientious filmmaker who expertly captures the essence of his story with every tool at his disposal. Reality Mine is evocative and thought-provoking, with formidable performances. Audiences may well be contemplating the issues the film raises long after viewing, especially when deciding whether or not to leave an online review that could one day be used against them!…crap, now I’M worried!
Watch the trailer for Reality Mine below, or head over to their Facebook page for news and updates.