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Piero Messina Another End Review

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Another End | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

Another End | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

The Power of Goodbye: Messina Gets Maudlin with Future Grief

The devil’s unfortunately absent in the details of Another End, a conceptual science fiction melodrama from filmmaker Piero Messina. An intriguing cast grapples with the somber reality of a future wherein the consciousness of the dead can be downloaded into a compatible host body for a limited number of sessions. In essence, it’s a way for loved ones to say goodbye to someone who may have abruptly died. Of course, there are a lot of caveats to this process, many of them somewhat nonsensical if you pull back too much of the curtain, but this suspension of disbelief would have been possible had there been a sense of genuine emotionality. Instead, this plays like a conceit which would seem to exist solely as a moral parable about the consequences of humankind playing God. By overplaying its hand in the third act, Messina’s sophomore film ends up being unabashedly mawkish thanks to one too many turns of the screw.

Sal (Gael García Bernal) has been devastated since the death of his long-time girlfriend, Zoe. His sister Ebe (Bérénice Bejo) just so happens to work for a corporation called Another End, and she deals specifically with managing the memories of those known as the “Absent Ones.” The only trouble is, Ebe must convince Zoe’s parents to allow access to her consciousness. Eventually, they relent, and a donor host is found in Ava (Renate Reinsve), located through the program’s specific database confirming compatibility. Initially, Sal is put off by this new Zoe, who’s not quite the same as the woman he remembers. Only three sessions are possible in this case, for the safety of the host, but Sal pushes for more. He sees Ava on the street and follows her one day, and this further complicates his inability to say goodbye to Zoe.

Piero Messina Another End Review

Initially, there’s a Twilight Zone/Black Mirror sense of intrigue as the film, sometimes rather awkwardly, relays the exposition of the ‘Another End’ process. A sprawling corporate campus in a modern unnamed metropolis adds to the sense of isolation and dissociation suggested by such a capability (not to mention one rife for potential litigation from both clients and hosts). As time goes on, this eventually begins to feel cheap since there’s seemingly only two ‘doctors’ working in the joint. Another nagging issue is how the sordid topic of coin is never discussed regarding this process (never mind what Sal does for work to allow him so much down time), despite the script taking pains to suggest the cost of a sex worker’s time for overnight duties several times. And then there’s the convenient avoidance of how social media would play a part in this process. The “Absent Ones” can never be told they’re dead, as this stops a certain process which means, once they go to sleep after this epiphany, they can never again return. But wouldn’t someone’s online presence need to be addressed, somehow?

Piero Messina Another End Review

The script, co-written by Messina, Giacomo Bendotti, Valentina Gaddi, and Sebastiano Melloni, instead relies on a few too many comfortable cliches. Reinsve, (who, much like in this year’s A Different Man is playing a romantic object who is being strangely manipulated by the men in her life), is alternatively Zoe (a name which means ‘origin’ or ‘life’) and Ava (a version of Eva, meaning life, and also a Biblical nod to the first woman). As we learn the host Ava’s personal tragedy (which drove her into sex work at what appears to be an arthouse brothel), and she eventually becomes romantically entangled with Sal, Another End’s more exciting ideas are absorbed by forced sentimentality. A final twist about who’s actually controlling what, however, is ultimately ruinous.

Messina, who cut his teeth as AD for Paolo Sorrentino before making his graceful 2015 debut The Wait with Juliette Binoche (a film which similarly finds characters delaying their processing of death and grief), can’t quite find the key ingredients required to make this film feel anything other than spiritless. Films like Total Recall (1990) or Coma (1978) come to mind early on, and a subplot involving Olivia Williams, a character we meet undergoing double duty with the resurrection of her dead daughter and husband, stands out as a rather limp red flag. Eventually, Another End feels like Reminiscence (2021) with Hugh Jackman. In other words, a short form concept stretched to ridiculousness.

Reviewed on February 17th at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival – Main Competition section. 129 mins.

★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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