Review: High Life

A prison-like journey through space to comprehend life, death and the meaning behind existence

IMDB Synopsis: A father and his daughter struggle to survive in deep space where they live in isolation.


The first English-language film from French filmmaker Claire Denis is quite the ride. The film is a non-linear, psychosexual, nihilistic treatise on life, death and the meaning of our existence set against the overwhelming emptiness of space. Jumping back and forth in time between the ill-fated crew and a meditative Monte (Robert Pattinson) raising his daughter, High Life doesn’t let the viewer settle in to much of a narrative or feel at ease with any of the characters. High Life isn’t the visually dazzling, soaring, meditative person-man space film cinema has seen lately (Ad Astra, Interstellar, etc.), rather a much more high-concept, eery, and frankly bonkers, experience.

The film is split into two distinct time fragments: One in the past where we see the lives of Dr. Dibs (a fantastic Juliette Binoche) and her crew—inmates from Earth who she experiments on—and a present timeline where Robert Pattinson raises his daughter and pontificates on life as they hurtle towards meaning. Without giving too much away, the future timeline is marked by Dr. Dibs’s physical and psychological abuse/testing of the inmates, in pursuit of her goal. Each crew member feels like a different class in this supremely effed up space RPG: Monte is the self-imposed celibate introvert, Tcherny (André Benjamin) is a man at peace resigned to a life of tending the garden, Boyse (Mia Goth) is a survivor (in the truest sense of the world), and Willow (Jessie Ross) is an optimist. The timeline is interspersed with mundane repetition, violent outbursts, and an absolutely wild scene involving Juliette Binoche and a room called, “the F*ckbox.” Things, as you can imagine, don’t go well.

Given that the future crew is comprised of Monte and his daughter, you can probably work out what happened (spoiler: it didn’t end well). These scenes are more meditative, yet still build toward the climax at the end of the film that might not altogether work, but is worth the journey nonetheless.


Highlights: The aforementioned F-box. The non-artistic design of the spaceship (it’s a dumpster in space). The creepily amazing sound design.

MVP: Tied between Pattinson and Binoche. This is yet another showcase of Pattinson’s talents in front of an auteur director. And every scene Binoche is in, she’s frighteningly magnetic.

Should you see it: This is definitely not for everyone. But it’s got merit now that it’s streaming (on Amazon Prime). 6/10.

Studio: A24 // Original release date: April 12, 2019

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