14th Oct2019

Grimmfest 2019: ’1BR’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Giles Matthey, Taylor Nichols, Alan Blumenfeld, Celeste Sully, Susan Davis, Clayton Hoff, Earnestine Phillips, Naomi Grossman | Written and Directed by David Marmor

1br-screen

After leaving behind a painful past to follow her dreams, Sarah scores the perfect Hollywood apartment. But something is not right. Unable to sleep, tormented by strange noises and threatening notes, her new life quickly starts to unravel. Caught in a waking nightmare, Sarah must find the strength to hold onto her crumbling sanity or be trapped forever in an existential hell.

1BR is essentially a modern update of the classic bodysnatchers story – with people’s personalities replaced not by clones but by a sense of need, a sense of belonging to a community. The idea that in the digital age (the internet) where we can talk to anyone anywhere we are still lonely and cults prey upon that loneliness… Something that is all too true and all too real.

Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets NXIVM, taking pot-shots at not only L.A. lifestyle, especially the idea of perfect/dream life(as seen in the movies) but also the likes of Scientology etc. 1BR is a film about an insane cult, only if that cult was one that, like Scientology, had a happy smiling public face – in this case those bright, clean, apartment blocks we see in the movies. The ones where everyone looks happy and everyone helps each other. We all know that’s too good to be true and in this film that’s definitely the case!

1BR is held together by the central performance of Nicole Brydon Bloom as Sarah, in a role that certainly looks to have pushed the actress almost as far as her character is pushed in the film – honestly I would think it’s tough for an actress to find the balance that Bloom does. On the one hand she’s got to play the character of Sarah with enough vulnerability for it to feel like she would be susceptible to the mental manipulation the character undergoes, but at the same time she’s still got to have an underlying strength for the audience to still be able to see that Sarah is a character worth rooting for, and one that can overcome the situation she’s in. Without either aspect to the character 1BR just wouldn’t work.

But 1BR does work, it’s a dark, twisted look at modern life. The concepts of fitting in, being a part of the wider community, helping others before helping ourselves. All good, honorable, qualities that are here turned on their head. What’s right is wrong, what’s wrong turns out to be somewhat right. And that conclusion, the final denouement, as Sarah realises that NOTHING is what it seems and the idea of big brother spying on us is not only more prevalent but also more sinister…

1BR screened on Sunday October 6th as part of Grimmfest 2019.

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