Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Directed by #LewisCoates
Film review by Nathanial Eker
How far would you go to rediscover a memory lost to trauma? This engaging premise is the central conceit of Redisplacement, though its more notable points of interest lay in its rather magnificent visual style. Though its plot is secondary, concluding abruptly at a frustrating dead end, its creative concept of futuristic therapy and its dream-like aesthetic make it a joy to watch.
Leo (Nico Mirallegro) is attempting a modern form of psychotherapy in an attempt to resolve an underlying trauma. His therapist, Doctor Michelle (Nathalie Cox) dives deep into the recesses of his mind, stripping back layers of short and long term memories to find the root of the problem.
The thematic trope of therapy via technology is an all too common quasi-sci-fi beat in our post-Black Mirror landscape. Appealingly however, Director Lewis Coates crafts a narrative that mercifully avoids the predictable ‘twist’ where the protagonist rediscovers a long-suppressed crime, Shutter Island style. Fortunately, this particular narrative is more interested in creating a playground for Coates to demonstrate his eye for visual filters and beautiful landscape cinematography with a wonderfully intimate depth of field.
That’s not to say that the narrative is without fault, however, as it often feels directionless; existing purely for the creation of such beautiful imagery. The blurring of reality is initially gripping but it ultimately confuses more than it confronts. The inconclusive ending hints at the unreliability of Leo’s therapist, as well as hope for this troubled young man, but the vague dialogue is too non-committal to be entirely satisfying.
Coates’ tendency to place style over substance bleeds into the performances of his leads who, while competent, favour a subtle approach overpowered by obtuse visuals. Doctor Michelle in particular is defined by the editing that accompanies her. Oppressive close ups of her mouth hint that her words might contain unseen despotic poison; a nice touch. Leo is given more to do, yet Nico Mirallegro often holds back, never quite giving us the emotional release we crave in a story so driven by discovery.
What does deliver is the stunning sound design, both diegetic and non-diegetic. Composers David Housden and Hugh Major present a stunning tableau of orchestrations that all at once create the strange, semi-dystopian sound of a future gone wrong, and a dream that can’t be woken from. Equally, the surreal colour palette and often alien lighting and imagery are supported by a stunning soundscape that’s instrumental in transporting us somewhere far from reality.
Redisplacement is a stylish short that creates a visually pleasing world unconcerned with the bindings of realism. Nathalie Cox delivers a scene stealing performance as the clinical Doctor Michelle, while the remaining cast offer adequacy in spades. Where the film truly excels is through its technical craft, as Coates blends a bright wheel of colour with disjointed visuals and experimental ambience to great effect. The somewhat damp conclusion is frustrating, yet its aesthetic is so strong that the film is able to remain eminently entertaining regardless. Stunning and engaging (if a little wonky on plot), Redisplacement has to be seen to be believed.