Tuesday, 12 February 2013

What I Watched Last Night

What I Watched Last Night – Black Mirror (S2EP1)


A bittersweet tale of loss and our online lives...

Charlie Brooker’s darkly satirical Black Mirror returned last night (11/02/13) with Be Right Back, a tale of a grieving process combined with technology. Be Right Back appears to be set in the near future in a land where Smart phone technology has got even smarter; everything is linked and a mere wave of the hand will get your device to do as you wish.

 This episode of Black Mirror revolves around Martha (Hayley Attwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson), a couple moving to a remote cottage in the idyllic countryside. Ash is seemingly unimpressed by this move; he is a technology addict who is reluctant to move back into his childhood home as up in the attic hides all the memories of his deceased family.  Disaster strikes for the pair when Ash is returning the delivery van and Martha’s increasing worry over his lateness is confirmed when she is greeted by the sombre flashing lights of a police van outside.  At Ash’s funeral Sara (a fellow widow) informs Martha that there is a technological service she can sign up for that can really help with her grieving, Martha is disgusted by this prospect and screams at Sara to shut up; her disgust is heightened when she receives an email from ‘Ash’.  When Martha discovers she is pregnant she is distraught at the idea of having a child without Ash around so she tentatively begins to ‘speak’ to Ash again; Ash being an interface of all of Ash’s past emails, messages and voice calls. Martha becomes obsessed with communicating with this version of Ash and when she drops her phone at a baby scan she is stricken with guilt over the idea of harming him. Martha replaces the phone and Ash tells her to stop panicking, that he can’t be harmed because he isn’t a physical presence but that for a costly price there could be a new level to their relationship.  Martha receives a silicon model of a body in the post and ‘resurrects’ a new Ash in the bath; this model of Ash is unflawed because he is the reflection of Ash’s edited online photographs. At first Martha is comforted by the physicality of this new Ash; however she grows uneasy at the model’s lack of memories and constant need of confirmation on how Ash would have behaved.  Frustrated by her own actions and the inescapability of model Ash’s presence Martha leads Ash to ‘lover’s leap’ and demands that Ash throw himself off the cliff, however Ash begins to plead for his life when Martha informs him that the previous Ash would have never just given in. Martha screams for him to shut up and the scene fades to black. The tale then reopens in the future, were Martha now has a young daughter, her daughter requests to go up to the attic because it is her birthday. In the attic there is Ash, who Martha now keeps up there as a method of deflecting her pain; just as Ash’s mother used to do with her painful memories.  It is a bittersweet ending in that although Martha has in a way resurrected her former love, he can never be the human being she fell in love with.

This opening episode of Black Mirror was nowhere near as bleak as the concepts of the previous series where technology forced the characters into terrible situations, instead Brooker chose to highlight how our own individual decisions online can conflict with our morals. 

Be Right Back gets you to think about how the rapidity of technological change is affecting our lives and human relationships. We are constantly bathing in the glare of our laptops, tablets and smartphones, if we do something we upload it instantly to social media and sit in wait for the likes and comments to come flooding in. Our lives are shared online and Be Right Back made me think if there was such a service available to us in the future would we act on it? Would we upload our loved ones lives into the form of a silicon mould?  Brooker is hinting that what we portray ourselves as online is not a true reflection of ourselves, and is questioning whether our growing addiction to our virtual selves in necessarily a good thing. It was also a tale of the extremes people will go to in order to cope with their grief and that was truly touching.  


Watch it now if you haven't already! ----> http://www.channel4.com/programmes/black-mirror/4od

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