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  • Gareth Crook

High Life (2018) - 4/10

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Life in space is an interesting idea. I don’t mean it existing, are there aliens etc. I mean people living their lives out there. That’s what Monte (Robert Pattinson) is doing in Claire Denis’ High Life. He’s a worker of sorts. Maintenance, cultivation, mundane tasks. A mundane life... in space. At least that’s where his story is headed. He’s there on board some kind of space station, my with a baby named Willow. They are alone, aside the room of bodies that Monte throws out of the hatch into space. It’s slow start, broody, dark. All stuff that Pattinson is good at. It’s also very stylish as space thrillers often are. We’re made to work a little. How did Monte and Willow come to be here and what’s his plan for survival? There’s no calls back to Earth, no structure to their existence. Just a sense that things back home have gone wrong. Now I’m not really convinced that this film works all that well. It’s opening half hour is intriguing, but the lid being lifted on why Monte is in space, does deflate the story a little. If you’ve read this far and think ‘Yeah I fancy this’, then stop here. If not or you’ve just got time to kill, keep reading. Monte is a prisoner. More than that he’s an experiment. Or part of an experiment... he’s the experiment. It’s not space age rehab, he’s not coming back. Neither are Dibs (Juliet Binoche) or Boyse (Mia Goth) who thanks to a jump back in time, are brought into the story along with a few others. Turning into a tense mini society of sexually repressed psychopaths it loses its way. We’re just watching, waiting for them to crack. Together they’re headed for a black hole “to see if we can capture its energy”. Sure it’s far fetched, but hey why not.I like psychological thrillers, but the characters here are just too thin, too austere to engage with. Monte is the only one with any semblance of substance to him and even then not much. Others like Dibs are downright nuts. A doctor playing god, using the others as pawns in the process. That’s where Willow comes in. Left to grow up with only her father in a long forgotten floating space coffin. Now I like bleak arty stuff and there are some great actors here, but bloody hell is it boring. About the only nice things I can say is the sound is good, the art department have really nailed it and whoever was looking after baby Willow (Scarlett Lindsay) on set did a wonderful job. The final act does finally show a little promise. A teenage Willow, the appearance of a second prison vessel. But this like the rest of the plot falls flat. Sometimes uneventful sparse cinema can really work, make you think, lull you into something wonderful. This does not. If you make it to the end though, stick around for Robert Pattinson singing with The Tindersticks on the closing credits.



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