Advantageous, directed by Jennifer Phang, is a quietly impactful film that has a lot to say about gender, ageism and race. It does this through the narrative of main character, Gwen (Jacqueline Kim), a woman who is forced to go to drastic measures after she is fired from the Center For Advanced Living and Health, when they decide to go in a younger direction for their public face.
Kim is magnificent as Gwen, giving a restrained, poignant performance, and it’s just a crime she’s not starring in more features. (Kim also co-wrote the script with director Jennifer Phang). Freya Adams, who plays Gwen 2.0, is convincing as a woman struggling to adjust to who she is, disconnected from everything and everyone around her, from her own body (which betrays her, causes her pain).
It has a very touching mother/daughter relationship at its centre (Gwen is motivated by doing what’s best for her daughter’s future, wanting to secure her a position in an elite school), which will always draw me in. There are some achingly beautiful moments between Gwen and her daughter, Jules (Samantha Kim). They are the heart of the film. Family is a theme that runs through the story, as Gwen tries to reconnect with a cousin, wants her help so she will not have to go through with the procedure. She doesn’t get the help she wants when she needs it but the family does tentatively reconnect.
It’s slick and stylish and very understated in its vision of a dystopian future, using cool tones and lots of light to make the world outside feel sterile. Gwen and Jules’s apartment is snug and cosy, by contrast. I love my sci-fi (nearly) any way I can get it, but it’s quiet, thoughtful films like this that get under my skin and stay with me. Some of the points it makes are, perhaps, a little obvious but sometimes I think plain speak is better than a whole heap of metaphors and allusions.
There is hope in the ending, for Gwen and Jules and their family, at least, but the uneasiness that permeates the film is not resolved. It is still there in the others who have undergone the same procedure, if you think about the implications of being able to transfer consciousness from one body to another, discarding ‘undesirable’ bodies for more socially acceptable ones. It’s a terrifying thought.
It was released exclusively to Netflix, so if you have an account, definitely check it out. (I’m assuming it’s on Netflix in all regions).