ADVANTAGEOUS. Great science fiction, different and fresh
Looking at the example of Advantageous from 2015, I have no doubts about it. Jennifer Phang – the director – and Jacqueline Kim – the actress – who also co-wrote the screenplay, together created a very subdued and emotional cinema focusing on the inner experiences of a heroine lost in a futuristic world. And in the case of science fiction, this is the kind of cinema that is sought after today.
Distributed by Netflix, Advantageous is a very fresh, feminine approach to typical science fiction themes. The film’s theme is best explained by the words of the main character in one of the scenes. Although you have to wait a long time for them, they facilitate understanding of the ideas that guided the film’s authors. Paraphrasing and simplifying – imagine, dear reader, that you have a deformed leg and for forty years, the correct execution of steps has been the problem of every day for you. And now imagine that on your fiftieth birthday, you are given the opportunity to dance… A miracle? No. Possibilities of future surgery? Nothing could be more wrong. It’s the work of an invention that allows… the transfer of consciousness to another body.
Following the voice of science fiction creators, one could infer that Descartes clearly was mistaken when he said that thinking is equivalent to being. The future prepares for us surprising, much more ambiguous solutions. The essence of our being, its origin and functionality are among those philosophical dilemmas that science fiction, and more precisely, cyberpunk, gladly explores. However, little of note has been created on this topic recently, as it’s hard to consider the bombastic Transcendence as an example of top-tier work. Advantageous is a different quality. Literally translating the title of the film, the future presented by the creators appears in a particularly favorable light because it will be possible to abandon the old body, along with all its imperfections, in favor of a new host. But it’s only an appearance, because in this procedure, as you probably suspect, lies the catch, as the heroine painfully discovers. As a single mother, she must take a risk if she wants to secure a better future for her daughter.
And it is precisely in this that the strength of Jennifer Phang‘s film lies. Instead of elaborate decorations and gadgets complementing the image of a futuristic world, the low-budget Advantageous places the human with its dilemmas at the center. The director closely examines the protagonist, whom fate has placed against the wall, while also wondering to what extent her drama is the result of social barriers and to what extent of her own choices. The science fiction context is only a backdrop, a distorted mirror leading to the present. And paradoxically, that’s why the future presented in the film seems so believable. It contains neither a hint of pushiness nor falseness. The feedback I received during the screening was sadness. I don’t remember the last time I was so moved by the fate of a lost woman, in this case burdened by the weight of both adverse circumstances and a culture rushing towards the future.
In Advantageous, it’s also valuable that the film doesn’t provide the viewer with ready-made answers to questions. It’s rather an invitation to reflection, an open card ready to be filled. Philosophical contemplation about consciousness meets sociology through the examination of a woman’s position in the modern world. There is also a voice concerning corporeality, how much it resonates with our identity, directly influencing it. But most importantly, the merging of these messages in Advantageous is done incredibly subtly and… favorably. With sensitivity and heart.