Let me be clear, the hate Antiviral receives is warranted and fair. I haven’t read one negative review anywhere on the internet that isn’t wrong. This is the kind of film that will split audiences like an arrow.
For me I was hooked almost instantaneously. Antiviral is brimming with fresh ideas and original thinking, at the very least it is a fascinating watch. I think even the haters might agree on that.
The film is essentially a ‘murder’ mystery. In this world celebrities have their diseases harvested by Lucas Corp, who then on sell the disease to their clients. Caleb Landry Jones plays Syd March, his job is to sell the clients the diseases. Syd is one day tasked with acquiring the latest disease of famous actress Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). Syd, in love with Hannah, injects himself with her disease, but eventually starts dying like Geist as this unknown virus starts raging through his system. With dwindling sanity, Syd must solve the mystery behind the disease to save himself and Hannah.
It takes a while to find its feet, with Sarah Gadon’s character not being introduced until at least the half-way point, but the world is so huge with so many intricacies that it needs that time to set up. This would turn a lot of people off, but I loved it. The world is really unique, it feels other-worldly but also isn’t so far from our own that it doesn’t ever feel unrealistic.
As is the case with most films with huge ideologies, some of the ideas work but others fall flat. Baby Cronenberg has a lot he wants to put on screen, having already shaven time off the film since its premiere it could have used further shaving. He occasionally takes the celebrity obsession too far, which makes it feel forced (the butcher for example). In the end though you just have accept those minor missteps, dwelling on them too long will distract you from the good that is here.
Despite having to share his name on the poster with his (slightly) bigger co-stars, this is Caleb Landry Jones’ show. He dominates the screen in a performance that demanded everything from him. This kid has a lot of talent and he shows it constantly during this film. His character isn’t the easiest to like, but he is the only person in this world that feels human. I dare say this film could (should) make his career.
I don’t know if I can recommend you check it out Antiviral, because I don’t think many people will like it as much as I did. If you like David Cronenberg’s work then you might be able to find something good here, Brandon directs and writes a lot like his father and should be able to produce a nice collection of films over time. I personally can’t wait to see what he does next.
4.0 out of 5.0
Antiviral hits Australian cinemas in limited release on April 25.