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The Placebo

average rating is 3 out of 5


Chris Olson


Posted on:

Nov 23, 2022

Film Reviews
The Placebo
Directed by:
Sunny Dhinsey
Written by:
Gian Singh
Drew Elston, Thomas Coulston

Feature film The Placebo, starring Drew Elston and Thomas Coulston, is a deep and meaningful exploration of humankind’s existential crisis. A Writer (Elson) is being haunted by a recurring dream that sees him digging on a beach at sunrise near two towers. When exploring this dream with his brother (Coulston), who is also a doctor, the two characters engage in a series of debates that cover all manner of life’s big unanswered questions. 

The Doctor reluctantly agrees to drive the Writer to the beach, and the Writer agrees to take some pills from the Doc’s glove box. Upon arriving at the beach, our central character attempts to recreate the exact conditions of the dream and ends up unearthing a skull from the sand - creating a visual nod of the head to Shakespeare’s iconic “To be or not to be” from Hamlet - which also appears at the beginning of the film along with some other famous quotes about life. Battered by the lack of purpose he was hoping to find on the beach, the writer declares everything to be BS and starts to fall even deeper into his despair. 

Characters suffering from depression can be exhausting to be with, a harsh truth but one we see no clearer than in The Placebo. Being around the Writer’s growing cynicism and mental torment at the pointlessness of the world is hard going on the viewer. Whilst the reflections on life’s weighty themes (God, purpose, essence) are intelligently written and the film has an academic quality some audiences will likely embrace, it’s a bleak experience and one that doesn’t offer enough emotional balance or story development in order to atone for it.

The individual performances are good, in particular, Drew Elston who dives deep into the increasingly erratic central character. His rollercoaster moods are compelling and the highlight of The Placebo is his emotive scene on the beach. Sadly, the chemistry and the interactions between the actors felt wooden and rehearsed. In many scenes, it feels like the actors are waiting for each other to finish lines so they can speak and many of the minor characters disrupt the flow of the film by injecting poorly delivered lines of dialogue. In a film so heavily reliant on the dialogue between the two central characters, it seems a shame more chemistry was not established and a more natural acting style achieved. 

Without spoiling the final third, it’s worth noting that the plot does break into something more compelling in terms of the meaning of life and acts that can derail someone’s entire belief system. The film feels unsure of how to deliver the human element alongside the titular pill, with the latter feeling completely underdeveloped. It seems a shame the film devoted so much time to the repetitive back and forth between the Writer and the Doc, rather than delivering a more structured story. 

That being said, it’s an ambitious film with some really great visuals (the aforementioned beach scene being particularly noteworthy). It has a thought-provoking script, some impressive standalone performances, and finishes strongly. 

The Placebo is currently available to watch on Amazon, watch the trailer here.

About the Film Critic
Chris Olson
Chris Olson
Indie Feature Film
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