SXSW Review: This is Your Death

This is Your Death poster art

When I went into This is Your Death while at SXSW I was excited by the talent behind it, but admittedly I wasn’t so sure on the story. Some of you may know this old story of watching a trailer and guessing the plot. All things considered I feel that may not be the case for everyone going in but either way it still left me excited to see Giancarlo Esposito’s direction as this was the first time I’d seen him do so, even if it was his second outing. But that is enough rambling, without further ado lets get into it

The story starts off with an interesting story, that of Adam Rogers (Josh Duhamel) who is hosting a show about women trying to marry a millionaire, when in the woman that loses decides to kill the suitor and try to kill the winner of the competetion. That is until Adam defends her and as such she kills herself, leaving Adam a shaken hero who denounces the network on love TV. It isn’t long before network executive Ilana Katz (Famke Jensen) tries to force Adam and reality producer Sylvia (Caitlin FitzGerald) into making a show about suicide, since suicide and assisted suicide is fully legal, much to the terror of Adam’s recovering adict sister Karina (Sarah Wayne Callies).
Now I will be the first to admit that I kinda knew where this was going throughout. From the A-Plot about Adam and the production to the B-Plot about his sister and her life as a nurse and recovering addict from their introduction (and actually Adam’s plot from the trailers). I will say Karina’s issues in her career felt forced, but that is the most out of place feeling thing. Overall though I have to say Espesito does a really good job directing this story despite its predictable plot. He does a great job directing his actors who deliver very believable and engaging performances. He also lets the narrative evolve naturally even if predictably. It does a great job of not overstepping its political commentary at the expense of the narrative being told which is appreciated. The movie is still hurt by that predictability but Esposito does all he can to combat it and does an admirable job.

Part of what he does so well is use of his cast who play their parts terrifically. I will fully admit that I occasionally confuse Duhamel with Timothy Olyphant, but I have still always liked him and here he does a great job as a leading man. Its clear from the beginning that Adam is a guy actually troubled by his reality TV host life and what the studios expect of him that contradicts his humanity. Duhamel’s journey throughout the story feels structured, though there are elements supposed to ground his humanity and his initial distaste for the idea that seem to be left by the wayside while he shortly drops it. Jensen as the TV executive worried about the show and ratings is quite good both showing her concern for the bottom line in TV but also still showing that she does actually have some concern for people. While she still has yet to “wow” me, Jensen does a really good job here showing a character ok with death but also in touch with their humanity. FitzGerald I found had the most dynamic and intriguing character as a reality producer mostly forced into making this show about suicide and damn good at her job, while questioning it’s validity the whole way. I’m admittedly not familiar with her work but I certainly look forward to her future work after this as she felt like a voice for the audience while not losing her characterization to be the voice of reason. The last to note is Esposito himself. I had known his work from Breaking Bad  and The Get Down both of which he is fantastic in. Here he plays a very grounded and human character going through a hard time despite doing all he can to find a job to support his family. I will say at times it almost felt a little too much like he was shunned from every job for me, but having never been over 50 and unemployed at the same time I can’t say that isn’t the case, and truthfully Esposito plays the emotional impact of it with deft skill that I only felt overshadowed by its predictable outcome and that it was almost an excuse to showcase his talents.

Overall I’ve had a lot to say about this movie, about its talent and its plot but that isn’t a set thought. Truthfully, I find it to be a solid film with some great performances and visuals that do a good job of telling it’s story. Just I feel in the end the plot really does exactly what I expected, even if I ignore the story, and as such Esposito’s direction and the generally good performances just make it a film I’d recommend if you love one of the stars or find it on TV or streaming. Its certainly not a film I’d ignore, especially if you like or just don’t mind gore, but I don’t think it will do much for someone well acquainted with film.
Reelization: 3.5/5
A strong outing for it’s stars and director Giancarlo Esposito, but unfortunately its not enough to make up for its rather predictable plot. Certainly don’t avoid this movie but also understand it wears it’s plot and moral on it’s sleeve.

About Ben

Ben Glasthal is a film student who loves to write and edit videos as well as stories and blogs. Ben was born in Boston, MA and lived on the South Shore of Massachusetts for 10 years before moving to Dallas, TX. While living in Dallas, TX, Ben found a passion for video production from courses and high school and decided to study it in college as well. After 3 years, on and off, at the University of North Texas, Ben relocated to Austin, TX to finish his degree at ACC and to look for production work. Ben is kind of a massive nerd and when he’s not watching movies or TV he’s reading comics or playing video games on his PC or Xbox.