|MOVIE DETAILS |
• Name: Residents of Arcadia
• Year: 2021
• Country: Canada
• Director: Dom Cutrupi
• Main cast: Ishaval Gill, Nick Preston, Kamantha Naidoo, Michael Stephen Perry, Stella Lai, Magalie R-Bazinet
• Runtime: 83 minutes
• Production company: Lumberwitch Films
It’s a hot topic that Residents of Arcadia (2021) offers. A young couple living their best life turn into migrants struggling not to get deported. Steve (Michael Stephen Perry) and Anika (Kamantha Naidoo) are young and beautiful. She’s an influencer and entrepreneur about to launch her own cosmetic brand and Steve is a successful motivational speaker that lives off making people strive for their best self. Arcadia is an utopia, a Second-Life-kind-of virtual reality where you can live your best life without the obstacles of race or social milieu and where everyone has the potential to achieve their dreams with talent and hard work. Although both Anika and Steve have migrational backgrounds this doesn’t represent any obstacle for them, only until they get expelled from Arcadia and return to their real lives.
The film addresses pretty sensitive and controversial topics: the unavoidable weight of race and social status in a globalized world shaped by meritocracy and culture of appearance to depict a society where everybody else’s grass looks greener. The two main characters, Mira (Ishaval Gill) and Remo (Nick Preston), are well built and give the audience a good point of reference. Their migrant background is certainly one that a lot of people in global society can relate to. The struggle for socio-economic integration and to overcome cultural differences and bureaucratic barriers in a foreign country, when yours has little left to offer, is real. The edge between the plastic daily life (filled with first world little problems to look real enough) displayed in social media or virtual reality and the reality of a global, capitalistic society suits perfectly the opposition of utopia and dystopia shaped in the movie, as two faces of the same coin. These elements together make Residents of Arcadia (2021) a film full of potential.
This is also the very reason that makes it hard to tell why director Dom Cutrupi doesn’t dare to dig deeper. Despite taking place in a theoretically dystopian future, the setting is just way too realistic and even too bright. In spite of a very good starting point and an attractive plot, Residents of Arcadia (2021) lacks the darkness, the ferociousness and the anger to depict the precarity, loneliness and misery of being an outsider in the 21st century.
Unfortunately, and despite having a lot of ingredients for making a delightful subversive dystopian allegory of social media and meritocratic culture, the movie doesn’t dare to exploit them to its fullest potential. As the story unfolds it becomes hard to tell if the emotional discourse used by the main character who aims to be a motivational speaker responds to the needs of the character itself in an ironical way or if the movie endorses the same official discourse. Sadly, everything points to the second option.
The screenplay might be clever enough to leave an open end for those who want to theorize about it. Nevertheless, this is indeed part of the problem. When addressing such a topic, the director should be in the duty to go as deep as possible, to show the dark side even if it bothers. Otherwise the story loses its whole subversive power and becomes an emotional self-help tale, which is what happens here. Residents of Arcadia (2021) aims to send an optimistic ray of light in an already enough dystopian reality. As an audience you are up to decide, if this is what you are looking for. Nice try, but try again.
IMDB URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt12844798