Time: 113 Minutes
Robert Pattinson as Monte
Juliette Binoche as Dibs
André Benjamin as Tcherny
Mia Goth as Boyse
Director: Claire Denis
Monte (Robert Pattinson) and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to the outer reaches of the solar system. They must now rely on each other to survive as they hurtle toward the oblivion of a black hole.
High Life was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. I’m not familiar with writer/director Claire Denis but with the cast involving the likes of Robert Pattinson and Mia Goth, as well as the trailers and very polarised reactions, it was something I was excited for. I really didn’t know what to expect, as it was a bit of an artsy movie and of course the reactions to it were a little confused and mixed. High Life is an effective and haunting sci-fi movie that’ll no doubt remain one of the most memorable movies of 2019 by the end of the year.
High Life is a movie that’s definitely best experienced not knowing too much about outside of the general plot summary, so I’ll try my best not to reveal too much as I didn’t know too much about it going into it. High Life certainly is a weird sci-fi movie, you might hear about the movie involving a bunch of people go into space to a black hole, however this isn’t like Interstellar by any means. I mean this is the movie that has the ship is equipped with “The Box” (also known as “The Fuck Box”), which the crew can use to masturbate, so at that point you can kind of figure out what kind of movie you are in for (or at least not in for). Also, the levels and places that the movie goes to might just be too much for people. Personally, I was on board and intrigued with everything that was going on. It does feel quite long, even at an hour and 50 minutes long and it’s because it’s a very a slow moving movie. I still like the movie quite a bit, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel the very slow pacing. It requires a lot of patience, and I had enough of it to sit through the whole thing, and I’m glad I did. If it seems like I’m being vague about the movie, it’s because I’m doing it deliberately.
Robert Pattinson continues to show how talented he is, giving one of his best performances here. Outside of his character and maybe a couple others, you don’t really root for many of the characters. So as incredible as the rest of the movie still would’ve been without it, much of it is riding on Pattinson to deliver a performance with a large amount of humanity, and a role that the audience can latch on to, which he does incredibly well. Juliette Binoche is also good as a scientist who’s conducting sexual experiments on the crew whilst taking on this suicide mission. Mia Goth always manages to take what she’s given, big or small, and with that makes herself one of the most memorable parts of each of the movies she’s in and High Life is no exception. The rest of the cast consisting of the likes of Andre Benjamin also play their parts very well but aren’t really the focus of the movie.
This is the first film from Claire Denis I’ve seen and I really want to watch the rest of her movies now because her work here is amazing, she’s definitely an expert behind the camera. This is an absolutely stunning looking movie, whether it be showing what’s inside the ship or outside it, and of course, the space sequences are breathtaking. I can imagine that it would be best experienced in the cinema. Apparently, a real life physicist and black hole expert was involved with the movie, and it certainly feels like it, making the movie feel somewhat plausible and even more authentic overall. Even the production design and costumes look authentic, it really feels like they made the movie as practical as possible and only resorted to visual effects when they needed to. We don’t see black holes a lot in this movie but there’s a very strong ominous feeling and sense of dread whenever they are on screen. Black holes are always kind of scary and you never want to go near them, but High Life particularly makes them unsettling. The score by Stuart A. Staples was also good, really giving the movie even more of that eerie vibe.
High Life is definitely not going to work for everyone. It may be too weird, disturbing or slow for some, and so I don’t blame you if it doesn’t quite work for you. However I personally really liked it. The cast all do good work (especially Pattinson, Binoche and Goth) and Claire Denis directed it immaculately. There’s no denying that it is an incredibly memorable movie. It might be a movie I need to revisit later on, as I feel like it will benefit from repeat viewings. All I can say for those who haven’t seen it yet is to go into it with an open mind.