Stop what you’re doing and go watch Bliss.
Director Mike Cahill (Another Earth, I Origins,) delivers yet another mind-bending flick that will keep viewers guessing as they fall in love with the main characters. Perfect for fans of Black Mirror, the movie explores life in a Matrix-like illusion.
It’s more than that, though. The magic that makes the experience of watching it unique, disconcerting, and powerful relies on the viewer’s not knowing how to interpret events. Part of that magic is the performance that Owen Wilson turns in, one of the best, of his career. He plays Greg Wittle, a wage slave working in an office who spends his time sketching his dream home rather than answering his phone. It isn’t long before the boss calls him into his office and fires him. But before anyone knows he’s been fired, his boss drops dead right there in the office. Thinking quickly, Wittle hides his boss behind a curtain, cufflinks stuck to the locks on the fold out window, to prop him up, and runs across the street to a bar. Inside, Isabel (Salma Hayek) offers to fix his problems, explaining that their world is a simulation. None of it is real, because she built it and can fix his problems. All she needs is a vial of yellow crystals a man took from her. He’s in the bathroom, passed out.
When they take the drug, everything gets amazing in a way you don’t expect. Is Iasabel telling the truth? Or is it the drug? Is she homeless, or does she live off the grid?
In some ways, the movie is entirely about escapism. In other ways, it’s entirely about connecting with people who have a vastly different worldview. Reality is subjective.
In yet another way, it’s all about addiction and the pull to escape. We want a perfect world where everything is beautiful. As Wittle’s character is drawn further into Isabel’s world, his daughter, someone Isabel refers to as a “fake generated character”, continues to pull at Wittle, seeking him out in tent cities and homeless shelters.
Hayek’s character goes to great lengths to show Wittle that she isn’t real, merely a persistent simulation. But Wittle has to choose which world to live in. One in which his daughter needs him, or is the unpredictable, adrenaline fueled world of Isabel too much to let go?
The ending left me speechless, and many people are already debating the meaning in the same way they argued about Inception. Let me know what you think in the comments.