The end of the world is one of those subjects that people everywhere simultaneously fear and can’t stop thinking about. Our mixed reaction to the world’s death is a reflection of a struggle with our own individual deaths, and as much as we try to ignore the inevitability of both, it’s still there, waiting.
Most movies about earth’s demise are of the action/adventure sort. There is generally a cataclysm and lots of people get killed, but a few brave and resourceful individuals always save the day with a daring and ingenious plan.
The sad truth is that if the world’s going to end, there’s probably nothing we can do about it. While there have been a ton of movies that respond to the end-time with high heroic drama, it’s a rare ” and more terrifying ” film that explores the helplessness people would feel just knowing the end is nigh.
“Half-Life” explores the ways Pamela Wu (Sanoe Lake, “Blue Crush”); her mother, Saura (Julia Nickson, “Double Dragon”); and her brother, Timothy (Alexander Agate, “How to Eat Fried Worms”), try to preserve a sense of normalcy as the world deteriorates around them. When we meet them, they are adjusting to the presence of Saura’s new boyfriend, Wendell (newcomer Ben Redgrave), who is there to stand in for Pam and Timothy’s father, a pilot who flew off into an unknown new life some years ago. The film screens Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Aside from paternal abandonment, Pam is also dealing with her conflicted romantic issues. She’s in love with Scott (Leonardo Nam, “Crossing Over”), who is in love with Jonah (newcomer Lee Marks). It’s fairly typical self-defeating behavior; Pam puts all her hopes in a guy she can never have, and then hangs around feeling crappy about it. Aside from her moping, Scott has to deal with his ultra-religious parents, who are doing their best to keep him in the closet.
Framing all of this is news of natural disasters happening all over the world. Major cities are underwater; the sun is producing huge, anomalous flares; and the air is so polluted that filter masks are sometimes mandatory for going outdoors.
While “Half-Life” has a plot, it’s more about the feeling of impending doom and how it affects the characters. The pacing is art-film slow, and is paired with sometimes-awkward dialogue and acting. Still, with a little patience, it’s possible to slip into its world and realize its fictional doom isn’t far removed from our own experience. There’s almost always a radio or TV on somewhere in each scene, reporting on a suicide, another environmental disaster or other horrific news.
The scary thing is that it begins to feel normal and familiar. Even if we’re witnessing a cracked-mirror version of our own reality, it’s still close enough to make you realize we’re only a couple of earthquakes, hurricanes or industrial disasters away from being where these people are.
Its fictional doom isn’t far removed from our own experience. “Mike Robertson