First, a quick announcement. Steeve Léonard, the co-author and director of this film was good enough to chat with me about his movie. After you read through this here, make sure you check out that conversation, which you can find right here. He talks a lot about the genesis of the idea and details about his movie I couldn’t cover here. So check it out.
This movie dry spell is driving me to drink. Usually this site would maintain a movie or two a week that fall into our key demographic of “Movies that make you Thinc.” (Please. That is possibly the lamest tag line ever. I don’t care if your initials are TH.) Anyway. So yeah, we love movies that make you think, with a k. We like movies that are complicated, obscure, learned… even movies that treat us a bit pedantically. (I would guess that I am saying that we are a bit of a masochistic lot here.) Anyway. The past month or two has been fairly light on the movie front. So light, in fact, that I have been regularly, making callouts to you all for tips on where to get my movie fix from.
But if you haven’t seen the movie – as I always say – watch the trailer, and then you need to leave. This is my official recommendation – go find the movie Radius. All the bigs have it, Google, Amazon, Youtube, I think even Blockbuster has it… oh wait.
Alright… time to clear the streets. The streetlights are starting to come on. (Was that how you knew when to come in? That was my rule in my family living in LA. When did you guys have to come in?) From here on out here be dragons. If you have not seen this movie you have to go. I want to discuss this movie with the cool kids that have already seen it.
The Rules and The Setup of Radius
I dig internal movie rules. Movie systems. Movie logic. It’s just something that I adore. And this movie brings some fun and fairly clever little rules to how this world works. I’ve done enormously deep dives in a ton of different movie rule systems – some of them so deep that the movie creators sought me out to say thanks on their own. I think maybe Coherence? Timecrimes? Or, no, it was Time Lapse? I think it was Time Lapse. Gah. I seriously can’t remember, and my bandwidth is so bad here in Port-au-Prince that I’m not even going to try and look it up. Regardless, I do believe I talked with the creators of all those movies, just don’t remember which one came looking for me. All that to say, tracking and denoting the details of movie logic just is fascinating to me. And this movie was no different. So much so, everytime someone died, I drew everyone’s locations on a napkin to validate the integrity of the logic. So yeah, there are a few inconsistencies here. And I have a few questions out to Steeve Léonard that maybe he’ll take time out to answer for us? But we will see.
When the movie starts we have two people with their memories wiped. An old trope… but weirder things will happen here so we’ll give this particular lapse a pass. As we start the movie out we are following Liam who is just innately and literally, killing anyone in his path. He’s beginning to wonder if there is some sort of something in the air? A plague? Something? And eventually the radio confirms these fears. But it is when he kills a crow and he realizes that if he gets a certain particular distance between himself and a life form, and that life form will die.
Now, just stop there, because I really don’t know how far we can take this statement. I sort of kept expecting some audio effects of insects making noise and then not. Or more of a feeling of the magnitude of this impact that Liam has on the world around him. We know that he isn’t withering grass and killing trees as he moves from place to place… or do we? Maybe it takes longer for the grass and trees to physically die? hahah. It’d be funny if a week later a helicopter flies over and sees a pudgy marker effect drawing all over the country side.
But that isn’t the first moment that gave me pause. For example, what about when he kills the pigeons on the underpass of the freeway. Why wasn’t he worried about killing the people driving over as well? Is it because the birds were alive, and then he inched his death sphere forward only minutely? Hrmm. Maybe. Or what about when Liam is out in the rowboat? Wouldn’t you expect dead fish to float to the surface? Sure, it would ruin the idyllic and contemplative scene where he reminisces and tries to figure out who he is. But right now, I don’t care a lick about the movie, I care more about the internal consistency of the logic of the movie. hahah.
Which, brings us to Jane. We notice that some badger, or triceratops, or whatever, some animal that had been skittering around at his house wasn’t dead when Jane was around. I even didn’t catch it at first. But Jane is a natural antidote to Liam’s poison. So, obviously, from the start we are seeing that we have the concepts of good, and the concepts of evil embodied in both of these characters. And that when they are together they are neutralized. Can I just say it would have been even more obvious if Steeve and Caroline Labrèche had chosen to given Jane a positive force as well as a neutralizing one? Like maybe levitation? Or maybe extra strength? Oh no, I got it… like healing! hahah. Yes. That’s what it should have been. She is walking around curing paralysis and blindness! Anyway, that’s a missed opportunity, but what do I know? Regardless, we have good, and we have evil bound together in some sort of yin-yang thing.
Back Story Slowly Revealed
About half of the movie, we find ourselves trying to figure out the details of the rules of this curse of theirs, which we just covered. But after that, the next hurdle they both have to figure out is who they are and why they were together in the same place and the same time. Thankfully though, the screenplay authors Steeve Léonard Labréche accommodate that particular plot need by dropping in flashbacks for each of our two main characters before the astral incident. Because, that’s what it was, a NASA type accident on the scale of Spiderman, or Thor, or some such. Wait. Spiderman was an arachnid incident. And Thor was just Thor, being Thor. Hrm. Let me come in again. Cough… Because, that’s what it was, a NASA type accident on the style of The Arrival and Contact. Closer. But nope. Not firing on all cylinders today for some odd reason. It’s a NASA incident on the scale of Chronicle. That’s what it was. Better.
Anyway. We do know that the local news is pretty sure that an outer space lightening bolt is what caused Liam and Jane (Rose) to tilt like a pinball machine. Eventually though they find Sam, Rose’s husband. And apparently he had been looking for Rose since even before the accident, but falls over like a scarecrow in a tornado. Eh? I need to just stop today. None of this is working at all. My point being, he cares very little about our little lost Rose. Not enough actually. But whatever. We’ll come back to him later.
Soon, our two Yin and Yangs head out to a secluded natural reserve type location to hide from the cops and the other various and sundry medical teams from the movie ET that will definitely want to pull Liam’s brain apart if they get a chance. And while out on the natural reserve, Rose figures out that it was actually her sister that had gone missing, and that it most likely was our dear friend Liam that probably did it… right there, in that lake.
With one final fight – that I swear to you, was the most illogical leap in all of movie history – the gang from the gas station I think it was, shows back up. And then, before we know it, half the gang is dead. And Jane-cum-Rose has been shot. Are you all with me? Because that is just the basic details of the plot. Not some of the more interesting aspects of this particular sci-fi sleeper.
The Ending of Radius Unpacked and Dissected
Remember back in the beginning when I said that Jane/Rose was our good, and Liam was our bad? And together they were a balance? It is this detail that you need to keep in mind as we lumber down the homestretch. Because, even though we are all bad, and we all screw up more times than we’d prefer, we’d all liked to be given a chance at redemption. A chance at grace. But in movie logic, all bad guys that kill good guys, die. It its triply more so when that person decides they would like to make restitution for their mistakes. 100%. Always. Write it down, bank on it. Bad guy decides to do good? He is a goner. Dead. He will not survive the 90 minute excursion. It’s just how movies work. (Stupid if you ask me… but no one asked me.)
So Liam turns a corner. He is now forever changed by the ET encounter in the sky, he wants to do good. Days are new. Leaves have been turned. He is going to save Rose. So he whisks her off to the hospital as fast as his little repentant legs will carry him. But we now have a problem on our hands. Liam can’t go with Rose for the rest of her life. First off she’s married to the Scarecrow remember? And here they are, hauling her into surgery for heaven’s sake. Well, Liam does the only thing he could possibly do, and that is to kill himself, and offer himself as a sacrifice in order to save everyone that might ever come near him again. This works on two levels. The first, his own repentance and salvation. The second for the salvation of others. He is dying so that others will live. See? It has salvific qualities galore. Trust me. Salvific is a word.
Final Thoughts on Radius
It was a clever little idea. Reminds me of the movie Birdbox. (Which, I believe has been purchased by Netflix and has Sandra Bullock starring? I personally do not think that that is a screenplay-able movie. I just don’t. Fantastic book. Cannot see how anyone will write that script though. But heck, I said the same thing about The Arrival. And look at me eating truck loads of humble pie on that front.) Which was a gorgeously tight little book. Same here. Just a simple, clever idea, that they were able to expand on to a movie size experience. And although, if you watched the trailer, the first half of the movie is exposition we just don’t need. And yet, some how, it pulls it all together in the end. I thought it worked. Wasn’t a homerun, nor God bless you, a grand slam… but it was interesting. And I had a good time with it. Hopefully you did too. And as I said, I am currently in touch with Steeve, the writer and director and editor and bottle washer of this flick with a few key questions out to him. Hopefully I’ll have more to report back to you soon.
So yeah, I bloviated a bunch, but what were your thoughts? Did Liam need to die? Should Jane have had her own super power? Thoughts on Liam and Rose’s ultimate connection? And was it a cosmic coincidence that the space lightening bolt hit the two of them at this exact moment? So much more to talk about in this film. But most importantly? Those fish! Why weren’t those fish floating the surface of that lake!?!? Discuss.