Title Fantasia International Film Festival Review of OXV: The Manual Degree of recognition International Media name/outlet Ain't It Cool News Media type Web Country/Territory United States Date 28/07/13 Description One could easily get lost in just discussing the winding plot that folds back in on itself and gives us three different views of many of the same events. But talking too much about the story and not enough about the larger ideas at play in writer-director Darren Paul Fisher's remarkably beautiful science-fiction/romance OXV: THE MANUAL would be a gigantic mistake, because it's the encompassing themes and discussions about free will, destiny, perfection, luck, science, manipulation, and the very definition of love that fuel this thought-provoking work.
I'm sure when I mention "love," many of you will run for the hills, but within this context of a boy falling in love with a girl, and the girl wanting to find the exact right circumstances in which to fall in love with him, there's a universe of great thoughts and conversations about a world where people's destiny as far as education, occupation and relationships are determined at a young age during a test given to blindfolded children to discover their "frequency."
Marie (played as an adult by Eleanor Wyld, although we see the character both as a young girl and a teenager) scores about as high as you can go on the test, and as a result she essentially lives the life of an emotionless creature, whose luck in endless and she always gets what she wants. Her "friends" call her "the machine." Zak (Daniel Fraser), on the other hand gets a negative score. Their frequencies are so polar opposite that they can't even stand next to each other for more than a minute without some massive, often catastrophic happening, which is a shame because even at a young age, he's madly in love with her.
Zak, with the help and encouragement of his good friend and classmate Theo (Owe Pugh), set about trying to find a way to chemically or otherwise make it possible to raise his frequency and/or lower Marie's so they are more evenly matched. And if I go any deeper into the story, I could be entering spoiler territory. But suffice it to say, their solution to the problem is fascinating, devious and loaded with unforeseen side effects. I will, however, say that their experimenting allows Marie to experience real emotion for the first time in her life, and she's as happy as she's ever been.
OXV: THE MANUAL goes into darker corridors as the story progresses. The government gets involving, Marie's parents are concerned about her being with a boy of lower frequency, but are loving their daughter's newfound feelings. The film nosedives into theory and contemplations that I could only skim the surface of with my fully-functioning brain. Director Fisher does not skimp on the science portion of his sci-fi tale, and the result is a wildly smart, atmospheric and contemplative piece of hopeful filmmaking. There are messages about the dangers of putting on a smile for appearances sake, for flirting just to see if you're good at it, and for living a life without a soundtrack at all times.
The actors are as talented as they are appealing, but their performances are layered and very deliberate, especially Wyld's take on Marie, who transitions from unfeeling robot to a being of pure emotions, which can be rough for someone who has never experienced them before. In case you can't tell, I adored this intelligent, curious film about the very essence and mechanics of caring for someone. Fisher deconstructs the process in a fictitious way that still resonates with truth, and by stripping away all of the cutesy behavior and awful stuff of romantic-comedies, he's arrived with a movie that is both sweet and dangerous. OXV: THE MANUAL is not afraid to get brainy, nor does it shy away from a bit of magic. I'm not sure I could pass a frequency test on this film, but that didn't stop me from loving it.
Producer/Author Capone Persons Darren Fisher