Director – Ben C. Lucas, Screenplay – Kelley Eskridge, Ben C. Lucas & Gregory Widen, Story – Gregory Widen, Based on the Novel Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge, Producers – Tommaso Fiacchino, Marco Hehlitz, Jamie Hilton, Bo Hyde, Janelle Landers, Aidan O’Bryan & Michael Pontin, Photography – Dan Freene, Music – Jed Palmer, Visual Effects – DDP Studios (Supervisor – Murray Curtis), Production Design – Helen O’Loan. Production Company – Ticket to Ride/Screenwest/Lotterywest/Screen Australia/Deluxe Australia/Red Apple/Spectrum Films/Head Gear Films/Metrol Technology/Kreo Films/Cherry Road Films/Lago Film/See Pictures/WBMC
Jessica De Gouw (Ren Amari), Thomas Cocquerel (Danny Lowe), T.J. Power (Sam Murphy), Clarence Ryan (Byron Finbar), Tiriel Mora (Dr Robert Amari), Liam Graham (Jared Amari), Adriane Daff (Cass), Ian Toyne (Furlong McLean)
Ren Amari heads OtherLife, a company that is developing a drug that when dropped into the eye gives users a pre-programmed virtual experience. Unknown to her business partner Sam, Ren is attempting to use the program on her brother Jared who is in a vegetative state following a diving accident in the hope that it will bring him back to consciousness. Ren resists Sam’s interest in an offer to develop the drug for the corrections department so that prisoners can be given an experience that allows them to be imprisoned for a year while only minutes go by in the real world. Ren’s boyfriend Danny takes a sample of the drug intended for her brother only for it to kill him. With the threat of the shutdown of OtherLife, Sam allows Corrections to come in and Ren be placed into a year in virtual solitary confinement.
OtherLife was the second film from Australian director Ben C. Lucas who had previously made the teen thriller Wasted on the Young (2010).
OtherLife reminds of Douglas Trumbull’s classic Brainstorm (1983) about the invention of a headset that will allow people to replay others’ recorded memories. This substitutes eyedrops for headsets and comes more confidently in the realm of Virtual Reality, something that Brainstorm predated. Although by the time we get to the idea of implanted memories of prison terms and some of the film’s mid-film twists, it feels like we are more in the territory of Total Recall (1990) and its reality labyrinth of artificial memories.
Ben C. Lucas has a dazzling eye for some of the high-definition scenery shots but in truth the ideas in OtherLife are tired and old hat and he does little with them. For one, scientific discovery films like this – of which OtherLife is such for about half its running time – are not that interesting dramatically. They are about either scientists at work or people going wow as they see the possibilities inherent. Usually some external threat has to be added in order to create drama. OtherLife does so in cliche ways where Jessica De Gouw wakes up from her one-year virtual jail term to find her identity erased whereupon what we have then turns into an unimaginative variant on The Net (1995), the ridiculous cyber-thriller where Sandra Bullock found that shadowy figures had taken over her life while she was away on holiday. This also comes with the addition towards the end of a reality flip that makes no real sense where much of what has happened is revealed as an illusion.