Remote directed by Mahyad Tousi and Mika Rottenberg is an unsettling depiction of the longing for human contact during quarantine. We follow several days of a woman depicted by Okwui Okpokwasili as she battles her way through boredom and desperation while stuck in her apartment.
It is a very visually pleasing and stimulating experience with a focus on vibrant colours and heavy attention to detail. The reliance on routine in lockdowns was emphasised along with attempting to regenerate an interest in domestic activities. The organisation and precision towards her routine are rewarding, filling the audience with the fulfilment of content as the aspect of the uncanny seeps in. The domestic ‘bliss’ is interrupted by odd occurrences and unanswered strangeness.
The title Remote regards being distant, away from where everything is ‘happening’, the view from her window suggests she herself doesn’t live too remotely, it’s just the feeling that accompanied lockdown. Her life before the pandemic is ambiguous with no solid hints towards friends or family. Other than the life she assimilates online the only time we see her communicating with other people is through work and a phone call she takes in her bedroom. We never see her face during these calls, nor who she is speaking to instead the shot focuses on her feet. Maybe it’s irrelevant. She doesn’t need to be speaking to someone that she is close to or misses to still feel ‘remote’ and ‘distant’.
The protagonist herself is an emphasised figment of loneliness. Her facial expressions and reactions feel almost animated. When she is on the internet in the evenings, she continuously sits up somewhat dramatically, in excitement which creates a fanciful interpretation, it moves away from realism and relatability. While it is likely to be a commentary on the lack of social contact she faces and therefore forgets how to perform in a more ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ way, it adds to the stylised characters in the film. The aesthetic nature doesn’t feel ‘real’, reminding us that although this is a mirroring of real events and experiences it is heavily stylised and at moments, especially towards the end surreal.
The uncanny throughout this film also comes through as we see all the flashy and interesting aspects of her hypermodern apartment. To us (or me anyway) it felt unnatural and almost eerie to see this woman living in such an isolated way in her ultra-modern apartment. Its futuristic aspects didn’t feel safe and homely but felt remote from what we are used to. The idea of ‘hypermodern’ is all about functionality and how to overcome limitations that would have previously been set in place. The technology the protagonist has access to allows her to continue to work and access the world outside her flat.
The film’s main plot involves the protagonist falling into an online community of women in similar positions to her, trying to work out why they are the only people who can see a dog clock moving anti-clockwise during a dog grooming show. While this film moves into surrealism it is just a commentary on the loneliness and desperate need for human contact that many experienced during the pandemic.
I am a lover of films that fit a mood, and nothing much happens. The storyline of ‘Remote’ is not especially riveting or thrilling but somewhat familiar and unnerving. It is uncanny because it conveys a time that we remember but emphasises the feeling to an extent that we cannot truly recognise it. The sense throughout the film also reflects a distant past, or even perhaps a daunting near future. It was a well-executed film with a gripping ambiguity.