Like Me review Addison TimlinYear: 2018
Director(s): Robert Mockler
Writer(s): Robert Mockler
Region of Origin: US

Rating: n/a
Color, 80 mins

Synopsis: A young woman sets out on a crime spree that she broadcasts on social media. (Source)

Like Me captures the all-too-real search for authenticity in a YouTube age. It’s a reflection of being inundated by quickly-forgotten viral videos, how artifice has become reality, and how we’re addicted to content that we’re simultaneously repulsed by. Like Natural Born Killers filtered through Tumblr-ready, glitched-out gifs, Robert Mockler’s film is a neon nightmare that digs into primal instinct with striking aplomb. Definitely not for everyone, the film’s ingenuity and dreamlike haze is undeniably a knockout for those willing to brave it. Stars Addison Timlin and Larry Fessenden are also a knockout, giving the film’s inexplicable madness its raw emotion. Original, beautiful to look at and all around insane, Mockler’s film is a technicolor powerhouse that rings with purpose.

Things kick off as Kiya (Addison Timlin) holds up a rest stop at gunpoint. Masked and armed with a cell phone, she records everything, subjecting an unsuspecting employee to demeaning acts of cruelty. She then uploads the video online, where it goes viral and she becomes an anonymous, overnight sensation. Naturally, the entire thing is a rush for Kiya, but it’s a high that fades fast, leaving her thirsty for more. Unsure of how far she can push things, she quickly gets on the road, searching for her next thrill. It comes in the form of a lonely hotel owner named Marshall (Larry Fessenden), who initially accepts a dubious proposition from Kiya before she eventually kidnaps him and stuffs him into her trunk. Kiya and her “prisoner” soon find out that they share a perversely common middle ground, however, longing for connection while living lives seemingly without form or void.

There’s a lot going on in Mockler’s stunning debut. It succeeds as both a bold sensory experience, and an intimate story about two souls floating through the cosmic ether. In fact, what makes the film so impressive, is how Mockler uses his fierce style and hyperrealism to present an existential search for meaning. At every turn, the story subverts how we expect to feel about its characters, turning typical archetypes into something more urgent. As Kiya and Marshall run towards an uncertain (but obviously destructive) future and the world tries to satiate its thirst amidst disposable stimuli, Mockler explores unsaid hunger through the fringes of society. But while scenes unfold with slow, hypnotic suggestion, the film never slows down in terms of making us think, piling on lurid images and twists as Kiya and Marshall cling for anything that’ll last.

Like Me review Addison Timlin Larry FessendenEven though the film’s visuals stand on their own as shifting nightmares, Timlin and Fessenden are the story’s anchors. As Kiya, Timlin draws us into her oppressive reality in a way that’s utterly magnetic. Timlin is a presence that can’t be ignored, in command of her settings and those around her even as she grapples with her own, unknown internal struggles. It’s a testament to the actress that she can make us understand her character even if a lot of her concrete details are kept shrouded. Opposite, Fessenden near steals the show. Initially introduced as a timid pawn in Kiya’s game, Fessenden’s Marshall never bows to our expectations, adding a bit of wry humor and a character full of unsuspecting depth. In the horror genre, Fessenden’s a legend and a staple, and this is another role that shows us why. Ian Nelson’s Burt, an online nemesis of sorts for Kiya, rounds things out even further, playing a character were made to hate, who again challenges perception.

If this is anything to go by, Mockler’s going to be a voice that needs to be heard. In the hands of any other director, the film could’ve been a senseless shocker using its snuff aspects as a misguided attempt to aimlessly shock. Instead, this is a film that unfolds with sharp psychedelic poetry, one in which its most oddly touching scene features horse tranquilizers, and where its depth comes from what isn’t said. Like Me counts the cost of connection in a world where everyone’s connected, but not listening, and is a tactile journey that haunts in all the right ways.

SG