There have been some fine examples of indie Brit sci-fi of late, with Under the Skin and Ex_Machina bringing brains and beauty to the genre. But this high-concept UK/Euro thriller is neither as big nor clever as it thinks it is.
Brand New-U follows Slater (Lachlan Nieboer) as he pursues the woman he loves (Nora-Jane Noone) through a series of parallel lives. With each ‘lifespace’ he’s able to wipe the slate clean and start afresh thanks to the titular shady organisation, which facilitates the transitions through a network of doppelgangers. Apparently, where these ‘Identicals’ come from isn’t important enough to explain.
Indeed, there’s very little exposition at all in this film, and while there is a dreamlike immediacy gained from abandoning the hows and the whys of the film’s concept, Brand New-U also loses a lot of depth because of it. There’s not enough character and relationship development, resulting in a lack of emotional engagement, which is exacerbated by the fact that the multiple identities are neither distinct nor very interesting. The audience is offered no insight into why these characters would want to exchange one life for another – a fatal flaw.
The film riffs on similar themes and aesthetics to Orphan Black, but this is nowhere near as engaging or entertaining as the BBC series. And while there are echoes of Lynch in the dreamlike dystopia, the tricksy camerawork and a glitchy sound mix just get a bit irritating after a while.
Nora Jane Noone (The Magdalene Sisters, The Descent) makes the most of not-very-much as the enigmatic love interest, while Lachlan Nieboer’s plank performance looks even worse alongside the excellent Nick Blood’s (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) annoyingly brief cameo.
Brand New-U attempts to grapple with big questions of existence and identity, but fails to explore or engage with these themes in any meaningful way, resulting in a shallow, if shiny, cinematic experience.
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