The very first image of Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) in Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral, emotes a major feeling that permeates throughout the films entirety, unease. With this introduction to our world and protagonist of Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg unveils a major satire of celebrity status, society’s infatuation with it and does so with such fierce bravado and excellence that would make his father proud. Set in the not too far future, Syd works for a pharmaceutical company, that makes its money from harvesting virus’ from celebrities and selling them to obsessed fans that wish to be closer to them. Syd has managed to steal some of these virus’, by injecting them in his own body and filtering them in his own home, to sell then to the black market. His plans come to a crashing halt, when the latest strain he injects is a virus that has killed a major superstar that is contracted to his company Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). Thus begins a race against time for Syd to find out what is destroying him from the inside and its links to the pharmaceutical he works for.
The major reason why Antiviral completely succeeds in its goals of being a satire is it manages to make all of its statements through every single facet of its production. Everything from the production design, mise en scene, cinematography to the performances of all of its actors just bask in making one feel uncomfortable. Especially with Jones’ brilliant performance as Syd, which is very cold, distant as well as his entire demeanor that make one feel very much on edge the entire time that he’s on screen. While one might not see the point in this reveling in all of this uneasiness, the sheer fact that Cronenberg is commenting on the unhealthy obsession that millions of people have every single day, shows that he’s an important voice to emerge in filmmaking right now, regardless of who his father is.
While there will inevitably be comparisons to his David Cronenberg’s early work, it would really be unfair to cast that shadow upon Brandon. Antiviral shows that he is most certainly capable of having a distinct voice, even if utilizing imagery and violence the way that his father did when he started. He manages to tell a great story, utilizing the perfect aspects of science fiction in order to craft a poignant allegory of our times and show the deep dark things that people desire and should fear as well. Highly Recommended!
Antiviral will be playing at the 48th Chicago International Film Festival on Friday, October 19th at 7:30 and on the 20th at 10:30.