High Life: Too Art House For My Liking

Robert Pattinson in High Life. Courtesy of A24.

High Life may have come with a lot of hype but I left the film feeling like it was a bit too much art house for my liking.

Going into my Sunday afternoon screening, I knew that Robert Pattinson would play an astronaut.  This was pretty much all I knew going into the film.  While we’re getting to know Monte (Robert Pattinson), Claire Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau’s script digs into the film’s backstory.  It turns out that Monte didn’t have a choice in the matter.  The mission’s entire crew was dead with Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche), nowhere in sight.

Upon meeting Monte, we eventually learn that they’re well past our planet’s solar system and traveling somewhere in space.  What exactly is their mission?  I distinctly remember is that the doctor specializes in reproduction.  She’ll take care of this by any means necessary–yes, even if it means raping a sleeping Monte.  Rape can go both ways, folks.  The doctor goes on to use Monte’s sperm to artificially inseminate another crew member on their mission.  Not that anybody was asking for this but the pregnancy results with the birth of Willow (Scarlett Lindsey and Jesse Ross).

At some point late in the film, Willow grows up.  Both of them see a similar ship to theirs drifting in space but nobody is responding to their communication.  It’s only on Monte’s return to their ship in which I realized many years have passed without as much of a hint.  This is where a time stamp of some sort probably would have come in handy.

I’m likening High Life to the Terrence Malick-directed The Tree of Life.  Maybe it’s a coincidence that both films end with the word “life” in their title.  I really did not like the latter film.  With regards to the Claire Denis directed film, it’s certainly not going to be one of my top films of the year.  This is going to be one of those films in which one will like it or they won’t.  In my case, I didn’t like it.  It isn’t for the lack of trying!

This certainly isn’t the first space movie that I wanted to like but found myself being unable to do so.  This title belongs to 2001: A Space Odyssey.  This is probably another story for another day.  Right now, I find myself in a position where I’m thankful for not seeing the film at TIFF.  This certainly isn’t the only film in which I was unable to make room for in my schedule.

I’m not denying that there’s an audience out there for High Life but it certainly is not me.

DIRECTOR:  Claire Denis
SCREENWRITER:  Claire Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau
CAST:  Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, Mia Goth

A24 opened High Life in theaters on April 5, 2019. Grade: 2.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.