We want him to win, god-damn-it!

MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH (15) 2017 United Kingdom 104 minutes. Directed by Daniel Jerome Gill; with Josh Whitehouse, Freya Mavor, Ian Hart, Steven Mackintosh.

If an abstract or compendium or aperçu of the Nineties (musically) could be said to be: Back to the Sixties, in Brit-pop terms that is, then Modern Life is Rubbish (the film) is back to the Nineties, the lodestar being Radiohead, that grouping of geniuses (or genii) who were (and are) always hovering just a little above (or below) the kind of commercial success that makes pretentiousness irrelevant (or at least able to be ignored by their most loyal fans) and so, continuing the theme, Modern Life is Rubbish (the movie) is a kind of built out album (with added bonuses), a slightly (in theme that is), though kind of enjoyably, extended version of a 2009 short film of the same name, which similarly hovers just above, or just near, an interesting take on the issue du jour, the destructive nature of digital life, especially as applicable to music and the individual genius (or genii) there attached. Phew!

What’s most interesting about the film is that the main character, Liam (Josh Whitehouse), is in rebellion against any kind of digital or, for that matter, urban, hipster, what the Nineties may have termed yuppie, lifestyle.  He doesn’t want an iPhone, for example.  What he does want is be a successful, ie. rich and famous, musician and songwriter, inherently, of course, contradicting his rebellious philosophy.  In this contradiction there lies a potentially entertaining, and romantic, existential angst. The short film seems to know that; the long version? Not so much.

The short film is about a couple who, in the process of breaking up, are dividing up their CD collection; as is, unfortunately, the long film.  This is maybe something couples in 2017 wouldn’t bother doing, however many dodgy art school projects might be hidden inside.  They would simply put the whole lot in the bin (the recycling hopefully); just too much plastic.  Now, their vinyl collection… but unfortunately they are too young to have been bothered with a vinyl collection. So this in itself is a tricky thing, plot-wise.  Natalie (Freya Mavor), his quondam girlfriend and financial and otherwise support, would probably just say: ‘If you want them (the CDs), have them. I’m signing you out of my Spotify.’  Or something similar.

What I wonder about this film is: why, if they wanted to make a film about someone rebelling against the life digital, they didn’t just make one?  Instead they’ve made another film which is sort of about someone rebelling against urban pretentiousness (laudably) but who is then led to an odd sort of personal epiphany, in which the embrace of all things internet equates to growing up, getting married and buying a house (presumably eventually, before they die, hopefully).

Given that there’s much good about this film - it looks good, the acting is thoroughly rom-com attractive, nice music, it seems odd that the plot issues (CDs aren’t a thing, the harm the internet is causing clearly is a thing), weren’t identified and dealt with in the nine years between the short film becoming the long film.  And couldn’t someone see that it really isn’t a satisfyingly happy ending for the girl to get what she wants (pretty much entirely but would she really have wanted that anyway), and for the guy to be comprehensively lobotomised (indicated by his new accountant’s haircut) not to say having lost some other body parts in addition, when really what we, the audience, is screaming for is for him to convert his girl, and his world, into a wild, all-encompassing take down of, not just the man, but the whole industrial-digital-corporate blow-out.  We want him to win, god damn it!  And not just the girl.  So, the film must be working on some level, for me to care about it this much.  That’s something, at least.

Paul Corcoran