Nov 14, 2023
Hugo Becker, Sarah Malleon
Quentin Laclotte, Suzanne Jouannet, Alexandre Auvergne
NEW TO UK FILM REVIEW
Critics Chris Olson and Brian Penn host UK Film Club - a new film podcast covering all film types. From blockbusters to old favourites and even indie & shorts.
The bizarre corner of the internet where ‘mukbanging’ resides is not one I’m familiar with, or particularly keen to become familiar with. So Hugo Becker’s short drama which takes its title from the phenomena was eye-opening in more ways than one. Despite a somewhat strange subject matter, it is a powerful look at the consequences of chasing fame and the pressures put on those who put their health on the line for notoriety.
Mika (Quentin Laclotte) is a heavily overweight influencer whose fame online stems from ‘Mukbanging’ – the bizarre trend of copious over-eating for the amusement of strangers online. Mika’s doctor and his sister Solene (Suzanne Jouannet) are desperately worried about Mika’s health. But his agent/manager Yanis (Alexandre Auvergne) pressures him to push further to increase his viewing figures – and their combined earnings. A troubled family history means Mika is vulnerable to manipulation from both parties, leaving him unsure who to stand up to.
Mukbanger’s bizarre subject matter does not detract from what is a thoughtful, engaging and somewhat surreal drama. This French-language short is a fantastic interrogation of a culture of self-abuse in the pursuit of fame, which has been prevalent on YouTube and other video-sharing sites for many years. At its heart is Mika, a depressed and unhappy young man whose health is failing him, but who feels he cannot make the lifestyle changes he needs as it means giving up his source of income, as well as his source of self-worth. His obsession with viewing figures is instilled and nurtured by Yanis – a sinister presence taking advantage of Mika for his own gain – and his association of those figures with a misplaced sense of admiration or community is a tragic realisation of how internet fame can go so badly wrong.
Quentin Laclotte’s leading performance is brilliantly pitiful – heartbreaking in demonstrating how helpless he feels in a lonely world which has brought him wealth and fame in a niche community, but little in the way of real human connection. His only ‘friend’ is Yanis – played in a truly unnerving fashion by Alexandre Auvergne. Auvergne’s laser-focus on numbers and total disregard for his cash-cow’s physical health or mental state makes the character memorably sociopathic – with a frightening ability to know which buttons of Mika’s to press to keep him in line. There is a disturbing dynamic the pair share that drives home Mika’s sense of worthlessness, with Yanis’ presence representing the callous and business-driven disregard that power-brokers of performers often hold. In an unregulated world which is so often driven by a race to the bottom for pure viewing figures, Yanis is an example of how extreme this can get.
The film looks great – hued in grimy colours which give the impression that the world of Mukbanging is an underground culture hidden from society’s eye. Becker’s direction is key to nailing down the film’s emotional core – a highlight being Mika’s breakdown in the middle of filming a video which is intercut with reaction shots of Solene slowly losing hope that he can ever be saved. It is an uncomfortable scene that makes the audience themselves feel voyeuristic and guilty for watching someone subject themselves to such degradation, and a telling judgment of the director as to their thoughts on those who enjoy videos like Mika’s
Mukbanger is original, unusual, powerful and memorable. It takes an inherent focus on emotional manipulation and control and centres this around a disturbing and discomforting online trend, but an empathetic performance by Quetin Laclotte means viewers will view this through a more relatable spectrum. Mukbanging might be worth avoiding, but Mukbanger is a satisfying-enough meal.