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Review: The Immortalists

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Flash Review: If you’re into science, there’s not a lot here for you. If you’re into drama, not much of that either. Mystery? Thrills? Intrigue? Romance? Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope. But if you like facial hair, there’s plenty of that.

screenshot from The Immortalists film

 

The Immortalists (brought to us by Structure Films and Dogpatch Films) claims to be “the story of two eccentric scientists struggling to discover medical breakthroughs to create eternal life.” While British theoretical biologist Aubrey de Grey is certainly peculiar enough to merit the label of “eccentric,” (his Duck Dynasty-ish beard alone qualifies him), I don’t think his American counterpart, molecular biologist Bill Andrews, comes close. In fact, he’s pretty typical — a touch nerdy and certainly intelligent but otherwise the guy next door.

If you are looking for some real insight into, and drama behind, the challenges faced by scientists pursuing their work, particularly avenues of research that might be unpopular with the larger scientific community, you won’t find it here. No fiery exchanges between established and prominent investigators and two upstarts chasing the dream of immortality. No impassioned speeches aimed at convincing government officials to fund these groundbreaking studies. Nope. The closest you’ll get is a couple of English academicians in an ultra-polite debate that’s as pointless and bland as the food they were raised on.

Directors David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg find a few moments of interest, such as when we learn about Andrews’ friend’s cancer and de Grey’s infidelity. But they don’t delve into these deeply enough for us to connect with the pain these developments appear to generate for the researchers or their loved ones.

I will say that the film is visually interesting. Alvarado pulls double-duty as cinematographer, and much of his work is appealing. Torose Kose’s simple and clear animation beautifully supports the small amount of scientific explanation smattered throughout the film, as well. But that’s about as good as it gets.

My final take (Full Price vs Matinee Only vs Wait & Rent vs Skip It) — Skip It. There just isn’t enough substance here — scientific or emotional — to merit spending the money.

The Immortalists opened in New York’s Cinema Village on Nov. 28 and plays there through Dec. 5. It screens on the West Coast at the Laemmle North Hollywood Dec. 11 to 18. You can also request a screening through the film’s website.

 

 

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