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Anti Matter – Review


Release Date: 8 September 2017 [USA]
Director: Kier Burrows
Writer: Kier Burrows
Cast: Yaiza Figueroa - Philippa Carson - Tom Barber-Duffy



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Posted July 23, 2017 by

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Anti Matter Review:

Kier Burrows’ first feature film is billed as a sci-fi take on Alice in Wonderland, but while the influence is certainly apparent, Anti Matter arguably has more in common with psychological thrillers such as Memento and Vertigo. The premise is solid sci-fi fare. Instead of falling down rabbit holes, our protagonist, Ana (Yaiza Figueroa) accidentally creates wormholes, and realises they can be used to transport matter from one place to another in a nanosecond a la Seth Brundle in The Fly. With the help of lab partner and love interest, Nate (Tom Barber-Duffy), and no-nonsense coding whiz, Liv (Philippa Carson), Ana is forced to expedite the testing phase of her theory when it’s announced that the software they’ve illegally procured is about to be pulled. Starting with a houseplant, the team of PhD students soon turn their attentions to increasingly more ethically challenging subjects (Including Liv’s grandmother’s poor old cat) until Ana decides to try teleporting herself.

At first it seems that everything has gone to plan, but Ana soon discovers she can’t create new memories, and must rely on a notebook and the information supplied to her by her co-workers, who appear less trustworthy by the minute. Things go from bad to worse when Ana’s research is stolen by a masked intruder, and the police start to investigate her with regards to the pirated software and a wide-scale virus which has been traced to the university.

anti matter cast

Ana’s subsequent attempts to piece together the fragments of her psyche and her life become increasingly fraught as the hostility of the world around her intensifies. As well as an element of psycho-sexual threat from Liv and Nate, at times reminiscent of Black Swan, there’s also a suggestion that Ana is somehow alien. A comment from Liv to her posh, conservative grandmother that Ana is an immigrant is both a political comment and a foreshadowing, as Ana effectively becomes a stranger in her own life. Displaced and unable to find the ‘language’ of memory required to understand her situation, Ana is at the mercy of characters whose motives and intentions are murky.

Even regular phone calls to her beloved mother (a connection to home and her roots) are undermined by suspicion when Ana is told she must give a special password in order to talk with her, and her mother questions her daughter’s authenticity and sanity. A relatively small scale protest about the use of animals in science outside the university grows rapidly until the world outside the confines of Ana’s room and her lab swarms with a mob of anonymous, faceless aggressors, bent on pinning the blame for their grievances on her.

At one point, Anti Matter almost swerves into supernatural territory, with Ana questioning the nature of the matter that makes up a person. What if, she poses, there’s more to her than the molecules and atoms that can be ‘phased’? What if travelling through a wormhole means your soul stays behind? The repeated visual reference to scales and weight, and the idea of the soul being something tangible that can be lost put me in mind of 21 Grams, but the reveal, when it comes, is pleasingly original and pseudo-scientific enough to be in keeping with the tone set out in the film’s jargon-heavy opening.

anti matter review

It must be noted that for a micro-budget indie, Anti Matter piles on the atmospheric unease and builds a creeping sense of terror that puts some big budget sci-fi efforts in the shade. The sets and locations look great, and the VFX, while relatively simple, are spookily effective. It occasionally falters due to a patch of clunky dialogue or clumsy action sequence, but this doesn’t detract too badly from the central mystery.

Philippa Carson turns out the strongest performance of the three leads. She has a lot of fun with Liv’s sassiness, sells her genius convincingly, and manages to inject some real heart and complexity into a character who can be a bit of an asshole! Sadly there’s not a huge deal of chemistry between Ana and Nate, but the relationship between Ana and her mother is authentic and touching. While Yaiza Figueroa elicits a good deal of sympathy in the final scenes, I really wanted to be broken-hearted by Ana’s dilemma. Having watched events unfold from her perspective, feeling her confusion and obliviousness as viewers, I wanted to be utterly invested in her fate, but something about the character kept me slightly distanced.

Overall, Anti Matter is a pretty accomplished debut. Smart and chilling, it raises many pertinent questions about the nature of humanity and autonomy, as well as unpacking the implications of discovering something cataclysmic with the ability to change everything about the world as we know it. Occupying a space adjacent to the sub-genre of sci-fi films which deal with artificial intelligence, it is very thought provoking in terms of human rights, people playing God, and it explores the problem of who decides what constitutes a sentient being. The casting of non-Brit in the lead role also lends a level of political metaphor which is a smart twist on the traditional ‘fish out of water’ narrative, and perhaps offers a meditation on the emotional cost of leaving one place and transposing your life to another. A small film that examines some very large issues.


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Katie Young
Katie Young – Author
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    I did not get the end.

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