Charlie Brooker may have been long celebrated for his wit but his 'Black Mirror' signalled the writer as something greater. His stock has risen to such an extent that the debut offering from Series 2 of 'Black Mirror' has seen rising stars Hayley Attwell and Domhnall Gleeson star in the minimal exploration of life after death in the modern age, 'Be Right Back'. Spoiler-free review follows.
Attwell and Gleeson are a young couple - Martha and Ash. Ash is unobservant and carefree but doting enough to please his more diligent partner. One night, Ash fails to return and Martha is devastated by his passing. A fellow widower suggests a new coping mechanism for Martha - technology that will "let you speak to him", with the caveat that "it's still in beta".
A grief stricken Martha initially objects but finds herself desperate to hear Ash's voice. She enters all his data - Facebook status updates, tweets etc - and discovers that the software offers an eerily accurate facsimile of her dearly departed. She soon takes further steps to reproduce and replace her love.
Set in the near future, 'Be Right Back' is immediately evocative of another journey examining life and love - Mark Romanek's adaptation of 'Never Let Me Go'. Perhaps unsurprisingly seeing as Gleeson also appeared in that film. However, the comparison is particularly vivid (although this seems like an odd word to use in the circumstances) in the washed out cinematography. The look reflects the sombre mood, while the minimalist soundtrack captures the emptiness of loss.
Brooker adds his patented flourish of humour in the dialogue - there's a point where I'm surprised a character didn't just come right out and say "my CPU is a neural net processor. A learning computer.". 'Be Right Back' offers some interesting thoughts on love, humanity and mortality before fizzling out toward the end. In fact, much like 'Never Let Me Go', the thematic premise of 'Be Right Back' is superb - without following through in a satisfying manner.
Watch 'Be Right Back' at channel4.com/4od for a limited time.