High Life

Monte 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.

Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes
Distributed by: A24

The Good

High Life is a peculiar beast. From the synopsis you probably wouldn’t guess it’s a sexual sci-fi thriller but that’s exactly what it is. It effectively gets under your skin and make you feel uncomfortable which works in the film’s favor. Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche give great performances, some of the interstellar imagery is beautiful and the emphasis on sex and reproduction is handled very well. It’s an odd sort of mad scientist film that succeeds in presenting a solid mystery with undertones of erotic horror and existential dread that had me engaged for the majority of the film.

The Bad

The mystery becomes aggravating as you wait for answers to your undoubtedly long list of questions that are sadly never delivered. By the end of the film I was wondering the meaning of certain events, procedures, or ideas, hoping and praying for a satisfying answer that just didn’t materialize. It felt like a film that was mostly style over substance, trying too hard to be art house which, for me personally, just came off as pretentious and dry. The part of the narrative focused on the sexual experimentation claimed the central focus of the film, surrounded by smaller stories that I felt were more interesting but weren’t given enough attention.

The performances from the rest of the cast ranged from serviceable to downright bad, with certain line deliveries literally making me laugh out loud. The direction from Claire Denis was unremarkable. The musical score was hit or miss as well with some scenes suffering from what sounded like an odd attempt at jazz that clashed with the atmosphere of the film; It made for a frustrating experience.


High Life is a film that had massive potential but suffered from a pretentious art house atmosphere, inconsistent performances and a narrative that raised more questions than it gave answers to. At times intriguing, otherworldly or even horrifying, it fails however to deliver any kind of satisfying conclusion to the overall story of these forgotten souls adrift in space. It’s an alluring film that ends in overwhelming irritation.

Final Grade: D

You can follow Cory on his twitter @corytweetsfilm

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