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TIFF 2018: High Life Is The Bizarre Space Movie You’ve Been Waiting For

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Who’s Behind It

72-year-old French master Claire Denis (Beau travail, White Material) delivers her English-language debut, co-writing the script with regular collaborator Jean-Pol Fargeau as well as Geoff Cox and consultant Nick Laird.

Who’s In It

Denis reunites with Let the Sunshine In star Juliette Binoche, who shares the screen with Robert Pattinson, André Benjamin, Mia Goth, Lars Eidinger, Agata Buzek, Claire Tran, Ewan Mitchell, Gloria Obianyo, Scarlett Lindsey, Jessie Ross, and Victor Banerjee.

Who’ll Love It

Fans of anything directed by Claire Denis—who does nothing to hide her arty sensibilities despite her bigger-than-usual budget and cast—as well as space movies either challenging (Solaris, 2001: A Space Odyssey) or just plain weird (Dark Star, Saturn 3, Sunshine).

What It’s About

When we first encounter Monte (Robert Pattinson) he appears to be on solo space mission, accompanied only by his newborn daughter (who is no less demanding than the obligations of an astronaut). However, it turns out that Monte’s sharing the ship with a ragtag group of fellow prisoners on a suicide mission to a black hole. In addition to caring for his daughter, he takes various steps to keep the dormant crew members alive. Of course, once they wake up, all hell breaks loose.

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Why You Should See It

For anyone who went into First Man hoping for a more adventurous journey into space, High Life should come as a breath of fresh air. A wilfully bizarre experiment in arthouse sci-fi, this outré Robert Pattinson vehicle gleefully ignores the conventions of space cinema. Movie astronauts are almost always on their best behaviour, suppressing their own desires in the name of the mission at hand.

That definitely isn’t the case here, as the film’s ship is populated by criminals, a baby, and an assortment of other oddballs. As a result of this unlikely guest list, High Life repeatedly deviates from space movie tradition, devoting much of its running time to babysitting, violent assaults, and unconventional sex scenes. While extracting a coherent understanding from the film’s series of strange events is next to impossible, Denis’ go-for-broke creative choices result in a wildly unique (if not always pleasant) space movie experience—and one that should reward repeat viewings.

When You Can See It

The final TIFF screening of High Life is tonight at 9:45 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox. If you can make it, be sure to catch this screening, as the film’s Canadian release date remains a mystery.