At what point does philosophical preponderance become overbearing in a work of fiction? Some of the best fictional works have broad sweeping philosophical treatises buried in their text and subtext, and they are often considered classics for containing such intellectual depths. However, there is a point where the plot and characters of a narrative are not just in service to thematic exploration but are in fact vestigial, where a work of fiction is little more than an excuse to mask a lecture. This is the issue with Realive, a film that examines the realities of mortality and the ramifications of resurrection, but in focusing on the philosophical bones it allows the narrative’s muscles to atrophy.
Our protagonist is Marc Jarvis (Tom Hughes), a man diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2015 who must come to grips with his imminent demise. However, he discovers the option to have himself cryogenically frozen if he opts for suicide so that his body may be preserved in a relatively healthy condition. He does so and is revived in the year 2084, where his weak newly regenerated body is monitored by a team of doctors who proclaim him as the first of his kind. However, Marc begins to question just what sort of life he is to lead in this new future and whether such a dependent existence is what he actually wants.
There’s a lot of rich ground to cover here, but Realive seems more intent on asking questions than exploring answers. Marc constantly speaks in voiceover about the regrets of his past life, the significance of his resurrection, and the contrast of nothingness to the pains and joys of existence, all of which are engaging topics of philosophical discussion in their own right and are enabled by a science fiction premise specifically designed to explore them. There is some mild ableism in how the film questions whether a life dependent on machines is one worth living, but this is somewhat forgivable in light of how the film uses that dependence as a metaphor for Marc’s literal imprisonment by the scientific staff that tends to him.
What isn’t forgivable, though, is that there just isn’t much of a plot to Realive. There is so much time devoted to examining Marc’s past life and the wonders and drawbacks of being alive again that it takes until the last twenty minutes for anything of actual consequence to happen in Realive‘s primary plot, and even then it’s a fairly rote and predictable series of revelations that carry us to a banal twist ending. The majority of the movie is navel-gazing monologues, an exploration of themes that are set up only so that they may be talked about ad nauseum without the necessity of telling a coherent story. Stuff happens, particularly in flashbacks that in another film would be considered first act groundwork, but none of it feels consequential until a finale that draws dubious conclusions based on what came prior.
Realive might have at least been worthwhile if the performances delivering such stilted dialogue had been engaging, but unfortunately every line is delivered with wooden awkwardness that either betrays a universal lack of talent, or, more likely, poor direction from writer-director Mateo Gil. There are interesting ideas at play here, but when the plot fails to gain any forward momentum for scene after scene, Realive starts to feel like watching the Architect’s monologue from The Matrix Reloaded on repeat for two hours. I like what you’re saying, Gil, but you have to find a more interesting way to say it.