Film Manchester Film Festival Marie O'Sullivan's Film Reviews

We Might As Well Be Dead – MANIFF 2023

We Might As Well Be Dead

Dropped into this enclosed community with no introduction, it doesn’t take long before the absurdities come to light.

A lone high-rise apartment block stands inside a fenced-off plot of land, surrounded by fields and trees. Becoming a resident of a vacant apartment involves a rigorous application process via the residents’ association, who make their decision depending on whether the applicant is the kind of person they would want as a neighbour. We’re never told exactly why the outside world is such a terrible place to live, nor why it is necessary to carry an axe when outside of the fence, but that’s just how it is.

Within the walls of the community, everyone has a role, and things seem to be working smoothly, but then a missing dog becomes the catalyst for growing unease among the community, as blame is apportioned and individuals become ostracised.

We Might As Well Be Dead doesn’t take too long to reveal that the seemingly calm and cooperative atmosphere within the community is something of a dystopia, with newer arrivals or those not born in the country coming under the most suspicion when things go wrong.

While We Might As Well Be Dead has hints of High-Rise about it, it’s the Yorgos Lanthimos influence which is very clearly worn on the sleeve (the filmmakers present for the Q&A after the screening happily admitted as much). The absurdities provoked several chuckles from the small audience in the early part of the film, which fizzled out as the circumstances become more serious. The problem is, We Might As Well Be Dead doesn’t exploit the absurd premise for genuine shock value nearly enough, and in the end, the barely-coded criticism of nationalistic leadership is simply too neat.

There is some stunning camerawork making full use of the striking internal architecture of the building, and a score which adeptly magnifies the atmosphere of foreboding. 

The film’s theme is relevant to today’s societal and political challenges, but ultimately this first feature feels like it could have dared to be a lot more adventurous in order to live up to its acknowledged inspirations.

We Might As Well Be Dead played at Manchester Film Festival 2023.

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