I can’t remember the last time I sat in a movie theater watching a film without seeing the trailer first.
But there I was, unadulterated and munching on popcorn, as the sci-fi action film “Self/Less” began.
What I saw was pretty entertaining (the reviewers haven’t been as kind). But even through the rough parts, the movie as a whole has a pretty simple message that matches what DaddyDaughterTime is all about. So while it won’t be winning any Oscars, it’s still worth a rental.
Warning: If you continue reading, there are a few spoilers here.
“Self/Less” offers an answer to this question: Is it a blessing that time is finite or should immortality and a chance at all the “do-overs” we’d like to get be our goal?
Ben Kingsley plays the role of Damien, an uber-wealthy and ruthless businessman (think gold-plated everything) who is facing his own mortality with a cancer diagnosis of six-months to live. He is introduced to a shady process of “shedding” which promises to take his consciousness and place it in a younger, healthy body that has been “grown in a lab.”
The process only costs $250,000,000. So Damien takes some time to contemplate the decision while overlooking the city skyline in his penthouse (sitting next to his indoor marble fountain, of course).
We don’t know much about Damien’s character but we have learned that he prioritized his professional life over family. His estranged daughter, played well by Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” fame, looks like she’d rather vomit than speak to her father. As much as Damien wants to make amends, the relationship looks irreparable.
So Damien decides to take the Faustian deal and the transition into a new body is represented very well. It’s as if he never died. He goes through a bit of rehab, teaches himself his new backstory, and then hungrily relishes his new found youth (in the form of Ryan Reynolds) with wine, women, and…more women.
But the procedure has side effects. If young Damien doesn’t take his magic red pills, he experiences “hallucinations” that turn out to actually be the memories of the body he inhabits.
What?! It wasn’t grown in a lab?! The indignation he shows when realizing that fact is quickly glossed over as his thirst to continue living wouldn’t have altered his decision and we all know it.
But the inner conflict between his dual personalities drives him to learn more about the history of the body he is in. That’s where we learn that Damien has taken up mental residency in an American soldier, loving husband, and father that sacrificed his life by donating his body to science to pay for his daughter’s desperately needed operation. (Cue the awesome Daddy Daughter Time montage starring Reynolds.)
Old Damien (mind) and Young Damien (body) work together to track down the soldier’s family and try to find a way to fight the mad scientists using them as lab rats. It’s as if the elder tenant sees it as a chance to make amends for being and absent father to his own daughter.
Cue the car chases, gunfights, and a most-excellent villain death scene including a flamethrower and the movie tries to fulfill the typical Hollywood punch list it assumes audiences need to be entertained.
In the end, the mind inhabiting the body makes the call and stops taking the pills – committing cerebral suicide to allow the younger man (and younger mind) to return to his family. Ok, there are a few plot holes there, but sometimes you’ve got to suspend your disbelief for the sake of entertainment.
Old Damien records a video message informing the younger man of what has happened and the father who wasted his efforts on wealth gives up his dream of immortality so a father focused on family can return to them.
While it may not be an Oscar contender, “Self/Less” does seem to offer one poignant message – no matter how much money one makes, investing in family is more important.
This film may actually be a decent representation of a recent study in The Shriver Report that showed that 60% of American men now equate personal achievement at home as the marker of success with financial wealth and independence coming in a distant second at only 24%. Today’s men say being present to be a good father, husband, son or friend, is more important than financial independence, professional success, or leaving a legacy.
It also reminded me of the book “The Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom which speaks to why time being finite is a blessing and not a curse.
One of my favorite phrases when talking with other fathers and encouraging them to spend more time with their daughters is this: “They can always print more money but nobody is printing more time.”
Overall, it’s a decent flick (rent it) and some of the cinematography is quite good. Might be a fun date night (I know my wife didn’t mind looking at Ryan Reynolds for two hours).