High Life [Review]

Some of us saw this coming, the review is finally here.

I try to see as many films by A24 as possible for many reasons. One, being they have a great track record of putting out some of my favourite films for the last three years, First Reformed, Good Time, and Moonlight. But also similarly to Blumhouse, something A24 seemingly does is that they try and push the director’s vision. They allow for that opportunity, and they lean into the bizarre. Some of the films that were released in their first year were James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, but also released Harmony Korine’s epic Spring Breakers.

Speaking of Good Time, over the past few years (read: since Twilight ended), I’ve become a massive fan of Robert Pattinson. Just like Kristen Stewart, both actors took their fame and acclaim and started working with filmmakers they very much liked and allows them to be far more creative than mainstream films. One of those movies was Claire Denis’ High Life, and oh boy, what a movie it is.

Let me start this off by telling you all that this is as of writing this review, it is my favourite film of the year. Now I need to try put into words why that is.

The film premiered at TIFF and it was very much on my must-watch list, but unfortunately, my schedule didn’t match up and I couldn’t get a ticket, so I missed out. But Arianne didn’t, and she told me that I was going to love it. She, like Twitter at the time, also said two words to me: “fuck box.” These words were so wrapped with the film, I wish the tagline was “Enter the fuck box.”

It’s a bit of a cop out, but the film is a lot more about an experience than the plot, but to briefly describe, Monte (Pattinson) is on a spaceship with a baby on their way to a black hole. It wasn’t always only the two of them, in fact, the baby was born on the ship. The other passengers on the plane include the very talented André Benjamin, Mia Goth (from another favourite Suspiria) and the always great, Juliette Binoche as a scientist.

The passengers didn’t really have a say in the matter for their excursion, it was more due to them being criminals. This is known in the film for two reasons. One being it’s clear because the passengers are a bit more violent and not very sociable. And two, there’s a strange scene that takes place on Earth in a train, there’s a professor being interviewed for the sole purpose of exposition to inform the audience that they were criminals. The film never touches on this again, and I was informed that the scene was added after the premiere.

The film is about sexuality and sensuality, and it rings true throughout the film. During TIFF, there were dozens of walkouts and that’s probably due to the Fuck Box scene. So to briefly talk about it, I understand it’s graphic, but at no point is it ever gratuitous. It’s beautifully and expertly done. It’s very sensual and intense, but it’s shot with a sense of purpose and lots of style. I feel like this is a huge difference in having a female direct this scene versus a man behind the camera for it. It could be played as creepy, or as funny. Though there were people in the audience snickering at how awkward they must have felt, it’s empowering.

I’ve already started, but I found the film that I will encourage friends to seek it out and add many caveats. It’s a tricky recommendation, but I know when someone does appreciate it in some sort of way, they will be very happy they sought it out.