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Errors of the Human Body | Review

Body Talk: Sheean’s Debut Forgoes Thrills for Moody Drama

Errors of the Human Body Eron Sheean Poster Eron Sheean, best known for writing the 2011 Xavier Gens film, The Divide, arrives with his curiously titled Errors of the Human Body, a sort of medical drama thriller that sounds instead like a documentary series on the Discovery channel. At first playing like a treatment by Robin Cook with a mad scientist angle, the film eventually reveals that it has no interest in delivering the thrills or chills that its foreboding first half painstakingly constructs, instead settling for mediocre melodrama.

Geoffrey Burton (Michael Eklund) is a medical researcher that has dedicated his life to finding a cure for Burton’s syndrome, a deadly genetic disease caused by a mutation that claimed the life of his infant son and ruined his idyllic marriage. Taking a job in Dresden, he spends his time developing pre-natal tests and living out an angsty existence as he fixates on the life he could have had with his willowy ex. But when Rebekka (Karoline Herfurth), an ex-student and lover, attempts to secure his help with an exciting new project involving cell regeneration, Geoffrey gets involved in a menacing riff with her previous research partner, Jarek (Tomas Lemarquis). With a creepy visage and noticeable sneer, Jarek exhibits all the characteristics of a villainous vampire, so it’s no surprise when we learn of his nefarious actions involving Rebekka’s research. As Geoffrey becomes more and more involved, he inadvertently gets infected with their “Easter Gene” from a stolen lab rat, and then, of course, things start to change.

What could have been an arresting tale of madness tinged body horror actually has much more in common with something like I’ve Loved You So Long, except that is also entirely devoid of any dramatic pathos. While Michael Eklund certainly exhibits the right amount of angsty fervor, the film’s stagnant wallowing in dimly lit halls and laboratories drowns out any dramatic action. When he begins to mutate, it’s clear that the dank visual scheme perhaps masks a lack of budget as well. Visual flourishes, besides squiggling Petri dishes dissolving into the next frame, are kept to a general minimum. And while Eklund approaches his role with some marked pizzazz, the rest of the cast feels a bit uninvigorating, particularly Karoline Herfurth, (who will be more recognizable to US audiences after Brian De Palma’s Passion gets released), here in a dual role as both narrative catalyst and love interest, woefully lukewarm in both regards.

While the histrionic ridiculousness that accompanied the character development in The Divide is largely absent in Sheean’s screenplay this time around, one can’t help but think of all the more noteworthy elements that could have been added to a plot that begins by proclaiming that it’s our unique, genetic mutations that make the human race able to be diverse. A final twist in the last frame attempts to leave you with a wow factor, but even if you can’t see it coming, is still resoundingly cliché. Even while it fails as a satisfying science-fiction thriller drama, Errors of the Human Body is, at least, not made without thought and care, and it’s a debut that hints at greater things to come.

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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