The government cover-up of the causes behind a massive explosion in a futuristic UK metropolis spur photo journalist Jennifer Preston on to search for the truth and in the process blow open a paranormal phenomenon haunting the city.
Alex Garcia Lopez has some solid TV credentials having directed numerous episodes of Misfits, Utopia and Secret Diary of a Call Girl. His feature film debut, Residue, is something of a curiosity being not only a feature that received limited release in the UK, but which can also be watched as a mini-series on Netflix. Talk about covering all you bases at once.
Written by John Harrison, whose career covers all shades of entertainment from Tales from the Crypt through to Disney’s Dinosaur, Residue sees a large section of an unspecified British city under quarantine after an explosion in a nightclub. The government, blaming the explosion on abandoned chemical weapons storage underneath the club, evacuate everyone within in a certain square mile; covering every inch of it in plastic and setting up an armed guard around the parameter. Despite issuance by the government that the contamination is contained, citizens have fled and those that stay do so in the shadow of the tragedy.
Three of these people include photojournalist Jennifer Preston (Natalia Tena), her boyfriend, Jonas (Iwan Rheon) who works for the Home office – the very people who set up the quarantine – and Levi (Jamie Draven) a detective who lost his daughter in the blast. Jennifer has taken to photographing the everyday lives of those who live around the parameter of the exclusion zone. When her subjects begin dying horrifically, she thinks the death maybe connected to a shadow that appears in all her photos. Her investigations lead her to Levi who is investigating one of the deaths himself. Jonas meanwhile is concerned as to why his bosses seem unwilling to do anything about the exclusion outside of telling the public that everything will work out eventually. As the three tread further into the rabbit hole, they fall under the scrutiny of secret men in secret clubs who want the truth to be hidden.
Residue is not a cheerful film. Everything about it, from the direction, color palette and throbbing soundtrack, distills into a murky quagmire of moodiness, shaking your fist at God and grumbling to yourself about what the bloody point is of everything. Simply put, it’s the Requiem of a Dream for dystopian sci-fi. Its unerring bleakness most certainly takes a while to get use to as, with none of our trio cracking even close to a smile, we follow them sleepwalking through their lives looking for meaning to all the misery.
Game of Thrones stars Tena and Rheon give capable performances despite the absence of anything interesting happening to them. Rheon adopts a truly bizarre accent whilst Tena sits at her keyboard blogging about her photos like an obsessed Carrie from Sex and the City. Draven is no better off as his police detective growls at the criminal underworld whilst either being drunk or drugged.
Harrison has said in interviews that he sees Residue in its present as being part of a bigger picture, with a 10 episode season continuing the story, However, I would argue that with Residue already clocking in at an hour and 45 minutes, and with nothing to really show for it, there’s not much here to warrant a return visit to the catacombs that Jennifer stalks in her mission to expose the truth. It’s been a while since I’ve so much happen in a film that amounts to nothing. For the trouble comes once you wade through the dark narrative of murdered babies, hanged ballerinas, underground sex clubs and shady politicians, you realize they’re all just black trinkets to distract from an unsatisfying and, at times, rather boring narrative that ends with a purposefully open ending. An ending that reminds us once again that life is simply unfair. You come from nothing, you go back to nothing. And unless you’ve recently broken up with someone and see the world only in shades of black, Residue may not appeal to you.