THE BECKY CARMICHAEL FAN CLUB ** USA 2018 Dir: Andrew J.D. Robinson. 34 mins
The Becky Carmichael of the title (Gabrielle Banville) is a young woman who enjoyed a degree of fame as what the 21st century ominously describes as a “YouTube Sensation”. Miraculously, this didn’t last much longer than the traditional 15 minutes and now her voice has faded in line with her stardom. Her brother (Tristan McIntosh) has his own troubles and no job, so she takes him in; soon after, she is attacked by a stranger while walking home (off camera) and receives an abundance of friend requests on “Face Space”, some of which call her names.
As Becky joins a support group to deal with the theft of her identity, writer-director Andrew J.D. Robinson’s film switches from its initial black and white visual palette to colour (and back again) to mirror her changing fortunes and state of mind. Inspired by prominent technophobic documentaries like CATFISH and THE IMPOSTER, this drama strains for a meaningful and thought-provoking condemnation of cyber bullying and the pitfalls of faux-stardom. It is executed in the style of an eager-to-please student film, complete with slo-mo, ponderous scenes of deep-in-thought characters wandering through woodland and would-be-profound dialogue exchanges. The performances are flat and some of the lines unintentionally funny: “That’s not a fan club, it’s a cult!” takes the biscuit. It’s a heavy handed, horror-lite treatment of compelling subject matter that was dealt with particularly well by the UNFRIENDED movies, and it drowns in its own “hip”, intrusive soundtrack (featuring post-DRIVE movie regulars Chromatics, Desire and Jonny Jewel, among others).
Review by Steven West