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Coma ★★★★★



DirectorBertrand Bonello

CastJulia Faure, Louis Labeque, Laetitia Casta

ReleaseLondon Film Festival 2022

Bertrand Bonello has always been one of the most intriguing voices in contemporary French cinema, experimenting with form right alongside thoughtful ideological provocations. In his latest feature, Coma, the filmmaker behind Nocturama once again explores the horrors of adolescence and the terrifying reality of the digital age, shifting his lens towards the surreal phenomenon of lockdown-induced fantasies. It’d be easy to scoff at this as yet another pandemic-themed cautionary tale, but Bonello’s film is hardly concerned with that: in an era when the technological singularity is no longer a distant sci-fi concept, one starts to wonder whether our dreams could be the hopeful gateway to a world beyond the impending apocalypse.

With a structure akin to the one of an essay film, Coma feels like a potpourri of Gen Z anxieties: the futility of existence in the face of a climate catastrophe, lack of egalitarian values under capitalism, and YouTube as a safety net for disenfranchised teenagers. Bonello clearly plays it by ear here, intertwining his personal experiences as a parent with distinctly universal concerns over the somnambulant state of humanity. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the film isn’t merely a tribute to Bonello’s daughter but a narrative told through the eyes of a technologically aware teenager (Louise Labeque) stuck in lockdown.

Few things are more comforting to a kid than an adult who understands their teenage struggles; hence the stranglehold YouTube influencers seem to have over the current generation. In Coma, Bonello explores those faux idols through the figure of Patricia Coma (Julia Faure) – an ASMR-coded femme fatale whose vacuous authority becomes the guiding beacon for adolescent dreams. Parasocial relationships suddenly seem tangibly real, almost as if those vivid fantasies slowly creep their way into reality and infuse it with corporeal terrors.

Suddenly, this phantasmagorical vision becomes a microcosm of humanity itself: temporal reality is skewed and distorted, living beings trapped in this dream-like technological limbo of declared “free will”. Bonello isn’t interested in how we got here or why this apocalypse will inevitably result in the Earth’s demise – it’s all in the moment, the one that his daughter is experiencing throughout her lifetime, the only one that matters. Perhaps, one day those hopeful dreams will no longer shield us from the horrors of reality, but the question remains: if we ever wake up, will there be anything left to save?

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