Lapsis – VIFF 2020 Review

What will no doubt be one of the most sheerly enjoyable films at this year’s VIFF, writer-director Noah Hutton’s Lapsis is a dazzling and inconspicuous amalgam of science fiction, social commentary and dark comedy that contains a multitude of tiny and refined pleasures. Starring Dean Imperial, who looks like a middle-aged Ryan Reynolds wrestling a dad bod and a receding hairline, who’s not only comfortable on camera but is capable of both cracking wise and eliciting great sympathy as Ray.

Ray’s is a world not too far away from our own, and Hutton has created a familiar near-future where the gig economy is the best bet for most Americans, as the gap between the rich and the poor widens. Hutton, who with Lapsis has made the transition from documentary to narrative filmmaker, does a great job of world-building in the little details that makes Ray’s environment all the more pragmatic and believable.

For instance, Ray’s brother Jamie (Babe Howard) is afflicted with a newly diagnosed and recognized illness akin to chronic fatigue syndrome, which has any number of expensive treatments, several of which reek of pseudo-science pretense such as something called “magnesium acoustics”. Since Ray’s numerous side hustles haven’t been amounting to much he decides to try out the recent job fad called “cabling” which promises big pay days for those with a solid work ethic and a love of the outdoors.

Cabling involves running cable between giant terminals out in remote wilderness, the kind of romanticized “make wheat while the sun shines” kind of gig, like tree planting, that’s hardly anyone’s idea of fun, except maybe a few phonies or those built like Wilt Chamberlain. And in order to make the kind of bank Ray needs to help pay for Jamie’s treatment, he’s willing to acquire highly coveted “medallions” via sketchy contacts and the acquisition of one such medallion previously belonging to a near mythic cabling folk hero named “Lapsis Beeftech”. What could go wrong?

A cautionary tale with some hilarious and even harrowing conclusions, Lapsis is the best kind of quirky New Age nightmare. It’s a consistently smart and unsettling dystopian prevarication that pretty much has it all; reasonably high stakes, a likeable lead, amusing and observant dialogue, a splash of potential romance for our hangdog hero, cute robots, and a strange but conceivable conspiracy at the center of it all.

Realizing the game is rigged, Ray plays it anyway with what he hopes to be an ace up his sleeve. “That’s what you get Beeftech, you goddamn asshole,” shouts an antagonistic fellow cabler to Ray, before adding a last slight of “LOSER!” while he trudges away into the bush, to a better destiny, perhaps. Lapsis may be a modest film but it’s also masterly.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.