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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Thomas in Love (review)

The Internet is bad for us; no, wait, it’s good for us. The Net makes us antisocial; no, wait, it makes us more gregarious. Can there be any doubt that a medium — whether it’s the telegraph, the boob tube, or the Internet — that changes the way we interact with our fellow humans will do so for better and for worse? Thomas (Benoît Verhaert) lives 20 minutes into the future, in a world where a psychologically damaged agoraphobe like himself can live a reasonable facsimile of a normal life over his visiophone: communicating with friends and family (and his shrink), arranging for grocery deliveries and household repairs, even carrying on a long-term “affair” with a CGI babe who constantly has new sexual scenarios to offer him. But cybersex is starting to bore — is it time to finally work up the nerve to leave his apartment after eight years of no direct contact with another person? Director Pierre-Paul Renders and screenwriter Philippe Blasband create a plausible near-future society in a few broad strokes, from fashion (the elaborate facial tattoos most people sport) to culture (government-sponsored prostitution). But the most striking thing about this subtle, refreshingly original science-fiction flick is that we never see the hero. We are Thomas, surfing the future Net over his shoulder, eavesdropping in the most personal way on his visiophone calls — the “first-person camera” forces us to acknowledge that getting to know someone through a limited approach (here, we have only his voice to judge him by) isn’t necessarily the worst way to be introduced to a new friend.


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MPAA: not rated

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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