by Nav Qateel
Up to now, Franck Khalfoun has directed consistently intriguing films, in particular his 2012 scarer, Maniac, penned by Alexandre Aja and starring Elijah Wood, who gave a truly chilling performance. With Alexandre Aja missing from the equation on Khalfoun’s latest effort, i-Lived, the filmmaker appeared to struggle with the characters, although the story itself was certainly strong enough.
But this is where the film was left unbalanced, with actors that felt out of place and miscast. While their talent was never in doubt, there was a distinct lack of chemistry and charisma from lead man Jeremiah Watkins, whose antics playing Josh often came off as forced and contrived. In a comedy or perhaps a less serious role, Watkins would be in his element and a joy to watch. Just not in this setting.
i-Lived examines how engrained phone apps have become in our lives, and how they control much of what we do — from eating, dating, to home security — the ubiquitous little programmes have literally taken over our every move. Khalfoun brings a new element to the phone app, by having one that truly takes over your life, with huge rewards for completing tasks and goals that you set for yourself, but with dire consequences for failure.
Josh (Watkins) was put through Stanford by his struggling, God-fearing parents, only to reward them by becoming a layabout, who dreams of his app-testing YouTube channel making him rich and famous. When he tests a new app titled “i-Lived,” Josh is in for a big surprise. Every goal he sets for himself seems to happen by simply following the instructions given by the app. Like getting the hot girl he sees at a bar, to upping his YouTube subscriber numbers, all his dreams are coming true. Strangely, Josh is three months behind on his rent with his landlady forever hounding him, yet he never once asks the app to take care of it. Of course, not all is as it first appears, and it’s not long before things get weird and people start getting hurt. There’s also a strange man that keeps popping up wherever he goes. Scared, Josh looks into who actually created the app in the first place, but by then it might be too late.
While i-Lived is Khalfoun’s weakest film thus far, it kept me entertained throughout its 97-minute runtime. If you can see past the less than adequate casting, and concentrate in the story itself, you might be able to enjoy the film for what it is.