Robert Mockler’s debut couldn’t have come at a better time, where our media-hungry society is more concerned about clicks, shares, and views than almost anything else. His film tells the story of a young woman who sets out on a crime spree, broadcasting every horrible minute of it to the world. A few years ago, Mockler’s film might have looked like twisted version of reality, but now it’s an all too real portrayal of our social media landscape—we’re living in a time where internet stars are posting videos of suicide victims. That immediate connection to millions of people is a terrifying reality when put in the hands of certain people. And it, too, is becoming a powerful tool for the genre, which is why we’re starting to see filmmakers like Mockler tell stories about it.
Nearly every minute of Like Me feels like a fever dream, as Mockler layers on an atmosphere that’s intensely colorful and strange. He sets his stage early, opening with a heart-stopping exchange between Addison Timlin’s Kiya and a convenience store clerk. Only minutes in, we know nothing about this girl—what her motives are or what she’s even capable of—so Mockler exploits that in the first few minutes and it pays off wonderfully. That first scene, in many ways, tells us everything we need to know as far as direction and tone for the rest of the film—while full of brain-melting scenes and stunning visuals, we still never really learn anything about the protagonist.
As great of a start as this movie has, Like Me struggles to combine its insane imagery and off-the-wall atmosphere with any meaningful characters or stakes; the characters feel like empty vessels just meandering through a story that’s not nearly as interesting as the message it’s trying to tell. And that was my biggest issue with the film overall, too. Fancy shots and colorful scenes only go as far as the story and its characters take it—which in this movie’s case, isn’t very far. I’m all for weird shit (and this movie has it in waves), but when everything else takes a backseat, it’s hard to connect with the film on any other level.
Look, there’s a lot of cool shit going on in this movie and the performances are fantastic (especially from Fassenden), but the story never evolves; it just felt like the sizzle reel of a much more compelling film. Had it spent as much time on the narrative as it did on its meth-laced fruity pebble-tinged landscape, then it would have felt like there was actually a method to all the madness. Instead, it just gets stranger and stranger until it finally ends, leaving us exactly where we started—slightly intrigued and very confused.