As contemplative and unsettling as it’s, Excessive Life struggles to develop its bleak sci-fi imaginative and prescient into a fascinating and cohesive piece of cinema.

He could at all times be Edward Cullen to the technology that grew up watching the Twilight motion pictures (and fittingly so), however for years now Robert Pattinson has branched out into the world of arthouse filmmaking, collaborating with administrators like David Cronenberg, the Safdie Brothers, and James Grey alongside the way in which. For his newest providing, Excessive Life, Pattinson joins forces with celebrated French filmmaker Claire Denis, marking her english-language debut after greater than thirty years of documentary and fictional storytelling. The ensuing film is a decidedly moody and chilly area odyssey that clearly has rather a lot on its thoughts, however will get just a little misplaced in its personal naval-gazing. As contemplative and unsettling as it’s, Excessive Life struggles to develop its bleak sci-fi imaginative and prescient into a fascinating and cohesive piece of cinema.

Pattinson stars in Excessive Life as Monte, whom the film introduces as certainly one of two survivors aboard a spaceship that is headed for a black gap, alongside together with his toddler daughter Willow. The movie (which Denis additionally cowrote) is harking back to Andrei Takovsky’s Solaris in the way in which it drops viewers into its sci-fi setting with little to no setup, then regularly peels again the curtain to disclose the darkish and disturbing occasions that gave rise to the established order. Certainly, the film’s first act – which consists of Monte interacting with Willow and maintaining the ship operating easily, intercut with flashbacks to his previous life each on earth and in area – is essentially the most compelling portion of Excessive Life total. It additionally does a very good job of laying the groundwork for the miserable revelations to come back, be it by exhibiting Monte disposing of his deceased crew-mates’ our bodies or offering glimpses of the horrible occasion that set him on his path when he was solely a baby.

Juliette Binoche in High Life
Juliette Binoche in Excessive Life

Sadly, issues begin to get messy from there. In time, Excessive Life reveals that Monte was a part of a gaggle of convicts who agreed to take part in a harmful area mission to attempt to extract vitality from a black gap. Alongside the way in which, nonetheless, the prisoners had been experimented on by the attending Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche), as a part of her try and produce a human little one in outer area via synthetic insemination. The movie aspires to discover themes concerning the horror of intercourse and copy in these segments, however comes off feeling considerably aimless in its makes an attempt to get at deeper concepts concerning the darkish facet of human nature and existence. One thing comparable might be stated for the film’s dystopian portrayal of a human civilization on the point of oblivion; it feels incomplete, as if Excessive Life had been extra all in favour of merely dwelling on the darkness of it story and situations with out really saying something of which means about them.

A part of the issue is that Excessive Life feels caught someplace between being a grounded, onerous sci-fi movie, and extra of an impressionist tackle the style. It’s miles from the one current film to attempt to mix the 2 approaches (Alex Garland’s Takovsky-esque Annihilation did one thing comparable), however its lo-fi aesthetic tends to conflict with its extra poetic thrives, just like the moments the place it eschews gritty realism in its portrayal of area – a spot the place you’ll be able to die horrifically by taking one unsuitable step – to be able to go for one thing extra surreal, just like the visible of our bodies falling in zero-gravity. The movie’s modifying is equally intriguing, but infuriating, in the way in which that it usually jump-cuts throughout huge durations of time to concentrate on key developments (like a child being born or somebody committing a sudden act of violence) that will or could not advance the plot. Clearly, Excessive Life desires to be a difficult viewing expertise, however its makes an attempt to be provocative and jarring get tedious after some time, with no clear throughlines to latch onto.

Mia Goth in High Life
Mia Goth in Excessive Life

Pattinson, for his half, delivers a positive efficiency as Monte, a protagonist whose actions usually communicate louder than his phrases (or, somewhat, his voiceover, which is the place nearly all of his dialogue comes from). The identical goes for his costars right here, particularly Mia Goth as Boyse – a rebellious convict who expresses open disdain for Dr. Dibs and her objectives – and Binoche because the not-so-good physician herself. On the similar time, lots of the supporting characters appear to exist solely for Excessive Life to mistreat or torment in no matter vogue it deems match, in the identical merciless approach that Dibs “experiments” on the convicts or viciously robs them of their company. Once more, that is clearly the intention to some extent, nevertheless it turns into tiring to look at in a movie that appears extra all in favour of exhibiting that folks will be bizarrely savage with out having a lot else to say on the matter.

On the finish of the day, although, Excessive Life may be a type of divisive movies that some moviegoers discover hauntingly atmospheric, whereas others discover it to be dreary and unnerving, however not a complete lot else. Nonetheless, it is an attention-grabbing film whichever approach you chop it, and will certainly please Denis’ longtime followers essentially the most – if solely as a result of they’re nicely acquainted to the filmmaker’s type by now, and know precisely what they’re entering into right here. Those that’ve largely loved Pattinson’s current ventures into the realm of high-brow filmmaking could wish to give this one a glance sooner or later too, although it isn’t essentially one which they should rush out and see in theaters. On the very least, this could give cinephiles one thing to speak about whereas they wait and see what Pattinson’s gotten himself into subsequent by signing up for Christopher Nolan’s new blockbuster.


Excessive Life is now taking part in in choose areas and can broaden to extra theaters over the forthcoming weeks. It’s 110 minutes lengthy and is rated R for disturbing sexual and violent content material together with sexual assault, graphic nudity, and for language.

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Our Ranking:

2.5 out of 5 (Pretty Good)