Just In: Another End: Gael Garcia Bernal lights up a derivative sci-fi tale

3.5/5 stars

Premiering in competition at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival, Piero Messina’s tale of grief and memory set in the near future begins with a clever bit of word play.

The words “Not here” are spelled out from the film’s title, Another End. And this is exactly what the film is about: loved ones who are gone but not forgotten. In the sci-fi- tinged world it depicts, technology has been developed to allow us to say our goodbyes even after our nearest and dearest have died.

Memories can be uploaded into a willing host, a person who volunteers to become a surrogate over a series of sessions, allowing the client to access the person who’s been taken away from them.

Sal (Gael García Bernal, looking at his most mournful) is the grieving widower, having lost his wife, Zoe, in a car accident for which he feels responsible. With the help of his sister (Bérénice Bejo), who conveniently works for the company behind this innovation, he brings his spouse back to life.

Playing the host is Ava (The Worst Person in the World’s Renate Reinsve), with whom Sal becomes increasingly entranced. First, though, there has to be a “reawakening” as Zoe’s memories are implanted into the host, including a bizarre charade that involves recreating the moment that she was rushed to hospital, fake ambulance and all.

Renate Reinsve as Ava in a still from Another End. Photo: Kimberley Ross/Indigo Film

Messina, who made 2015’s L’attesa and here co-writes with Valentina Gaddi, Sebastiano Melloni and Giacomo Bendotti, seems to revel in the theatricality of it all.

Films like the Charlie Kaufman-scripted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which takes a similarly low-fi approach to the “science”, will come to mind.

Here, sadly, the film gets too bogged down in the rules of the game, with the script littered with jargon like “synchronisation” and “dream residue”. What it doesn’t do quite so well is dig into the emotional implications of reanimating a loved one in this temporary way.

Bérénice Bejo as the protagonist’s sister in a still from Another End. Photo: Indigo Film.

Still, Messina frames his protagonists with a cool sense of detachment, creating a very stimulating visual experience. Bernal and Reinsve are also two very appealing presences, both to look at and hang out with.

Olivia Williams, playing Sal’s upstairs neighbour and another user of the “Another End” tech, brings some emotional balance to the film too.

Undoubtedly, the film feels a little too familiar and derivative with its ideas. But this aside, as a sideways look at the way humans struggle to let go, it offers a controlled and cohesive experience.

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