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Review: Lapsis – “Equally intriguing in its premise and engaging in its incredibly smart and clever social commentary”

Dean Imperial in ‘Lapsis’

Our relationship with technology is always changing.  To completely date myself, when I was young, my relationship with technology really just revolved around a VCR, TV, Commodore 64, and a 5-inch floppy disk (many of you may not even know what those last two items are but I’m sure they’re in a museum somewhere).  Now I walk around with more computer power in my pocket than I could have even dreamed about when I was ten.  A whole economy relies heavily on the existence of the internet, on connectivity.  Perhaps in the past year more than any other recent time, our relationship with technology has changed while we adapted to a different way of life.  Some businesses had to be innovative in the way they connected to their consumers, while others prospered in a new socially distant world.  So perhaps the arrival of Lapsis, which has a lot to say about corporate greed, technology, and gig workers (who have never felt more essential) is perfect timing.

Lapsis takes place in kind of a parallel universe that the 2000s seem to have forgotten.  While by aesthetics, the world of Lapsis seems to be stuck in the 90s, in their reality quantum computing has taken over, and companies are happily making money hand over fist on the backs of gig workers who have to help complete their network by laying miles of cable through tough terrains.  Ray (Dean Imperial) is living in Queens, New York, and has always been wary of new tech, though he’s being forced to comply through necessity.  Ray spends his days delivering lost luggage for a sketchy airline and taking care of his sick brother who is suffering from “omnia,” a sort of chronic fatigue syndrome.  Desperate to get him into a treatment clinic, Ray decides to take a job cabling in order to help pay the costs.

Obtaining a medallion (a type of permit) in a somewhat shady way, Ray begins to trek through the forest dragging his cabling cart behind him and accompanied by the GPS that tracks his every move and denies his every request for rest.  But what starts as a seemingly easy way to make some fast dollars begins to unravel as Ray begins to realize that his medallion had a mysterious former owner, Lapsis Beeftech.   Meeting others on the trail, including Anna (Madeline Wise) the world of cabling is slowly revealed to Ray, including the lack of worker protections, and the constant competition between each other and the automated cablers that threaten their paydays.

Writer and director Noah Hutton, who received a nomination for Best First Screenplay at the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards, has created an absurd premise perhaps, but one that serves as a perfect canvas for the satire he intends.  Hutton has much to say, about capitalism, greed, the classism that technology creates, automation, and gig workers themselves. Lapsis perfectly explores all of these things in an entertaining and darkly comedic way.  I’ve read previous reviews that have compared this film’s feel to Boots Riley‘s Sorry to Bother You, and the commentary does seem slightly similar.

As Ray/Lapsis, most of the film rests on Dean Imperial’s shoulders.  With only one other short film on his list of acting credits Imperial seems more than up to the challenge of leading this movie, and he plays Ray with a needed dash of cynicism while maintaining the empathy he attracts, especially as he cares for his ailing brother.  Madeline Wise (likely most seen in the 2019 series Crashing) is also a welcome addition to the cast as the deadpan Anna who is a needed reality check for Ray and propels the narrative forward.

Lapsis is a strange and bizarre film that is equally intriguing in its premise and engaging in its incredibly smart and clever social commentary.  Despite an ending that is somewhat of a cryptic miscalculation, this film’s unique sci-fi perspective on reality offers enough to forgive the lackluster finale.  This film gives one a lot to think about, and to steal a phrase continually repeated from the cabling GPS units, Lapsis will continually ask you to “Challenge your status quo.”

Lapsis is available on DVD and digital May 11, 2021.

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