The Dystopian Sci-Fi Gem Waits to Be Streamed on Netflix


What would happen if technology interfered with the human essence?


There are escapees sci-fi movies that transport us to a world of spiny aliens and visceral space travel. Then there are the subtle dystopian movies that shine brightest after the credits, ensuring your return to reality isn’t without a new existential perspective.

I know you know Black Mirror’s reputation for the latter, but let me introduce you to the clever, forward-thinking 2015 film. Advantageous. It’s available on Netflix right now.

The dreamlike, eerie-toned film revisits a question often asked by humans: what does it mean to be alive? The film evokes this feeling verbatim once or twice, but it’s ultimately addressed in a quiet, painful, and nuanced way.

Director Jennifer Phang shows the viewer how certain aspects of our deepest selves will never be programmable. It essentially asks: what if we were forced to give up parts of our humanity in order to continue living within the framework of the social contract that has been passed down to us? What if we refuse?

Gwen, played by Jacqueline Kim, is the protagonist of the story. She works for a futuristic biomedical device company and serves as our lookout into the realm of the film. Humanity has become a caricature of today’s political pitfalls.

Sexism manifests itself when women are denied positions in a failing labor market because leaders believe that too many unemployed men would lead to chaos. Terrorist attacks have been normalized. Citizens wander stone-faced through the smoke billowing from crumbling buildings. We are talking about an ideal race.

But Gwen – struggling with financial instability and all-too-familiar career worries through complete disarray – never fails to exude the epitome of all human traits: love.

His life centers on his daughter, a point strongly underscored by society’s declining fertility rates.

But how far would Gwen go to protect her child in a dismantled world operating under the facade of technological success? In the end, she would go far enough. And there is a cost.

Advantageous is a slow, sluggish film. It takes patience and an active detachment from the outside world to pull through. Instead of telling you a story, Phang drops just enough clues for you to figure one out for yourself. Some suggest it could have been a short film, which I might agree with. Think Black Mirror, but even more trippy.

Although the success of its pacing is critically debated and I remember the silence more than the dialogue against the pastel cinematography, I was completely engrossed in every scene 100% of the time.

Ken Jeong makes an appearance in the Asian-American family at the center of the film, each member of which delivers a hyper-immersive performance. Sadness washed over me as the characters’ brows furrowed in despair, and I rejoiced in the realization that I would probably (hope?) never have to make the harrowing decisions asked of them.

Made on a shoestring budget, this film feels like an essay on human nature. It doesn’t promise spectacular sequences of sci-fi madness, and it doesn’t even have background actors – a feature that adds to the desolate and unsettling appearance of Gwen’s universe.

Its toughest moments are overlaid with comments about rising skyscraper profits; a homeless woman inquires about Gwen’s well-being as our main character walks past wearing stilettos and a tailored pencil dress. If you saw Bo Burnham’s Netflix Special Insideyou’ll understand what I mean when I say for much of the movie, I had “this funny feeling”.

But after the screen went black, I silently contemplated what I had just witnessed, turned off my television, and walked away with a strange new lens on what it means to be alive.


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