Like Us Review by Jen Bush
Like Us is a short film that was a selection in the 48th annual Boston Sci-fi Film Festival which is the longest running genre festival in the U.S. The plot centers on Kathie who is the loving caretaker for her paralyzed husband Jim. Kathie gently tends to Jim’s needs with deep affection. Kathie witnesses something crash outside her window. When she goes to investigate, she sees a young woman on the ground bleeding and struggling to breathe. Kathie rescues the woman and brings her home. We discover that the young woman is an alien named Rogl from the planet Actus. Rogl looks humanoid but does not have the capacity to experience emotion. With Kathie’s tutelage and especially by observing Kathie’s devotion to Jim, Rogl begins to comprehend what it is like to have feelings. Her interpretation of those feelings is not without consequences.
What is love? Love could be expressed in the form of a hug. It could also be expressed in the form of a parent forbidding a child to engage in a dangerous sport because of a pre-existing condition. It could be letting someone go. The point is emotions are complex and that was one of the important messages conveyed in the film. This sci-fi drama was both poignant and shocking. It was not focused on an alien coming to earth because surely Kathie would have alerted the authorities. The film was about feeling, expressing, understanding and interpreting emotions on a human level and discovering how an alien would explore them. As the film progresses you might access prior knowledge of other sci-fi films you’ve seen and deduce it going a certain way. I did and it didn’t and that’s just fine.
Aliens lacking emotions is a trademark of the science fiction genre. There are countless examples of this such as The Vulcans and Data from Star Trek and the Daleks from Dr. Who. In Like Us Rogle was capable of absorbing, integrating and applying what she learned about humanity. Because she is an alien, her interpretation of emotions was different which led to a controversial moment in the film.
Like Us was written and directed by insightful filmmaker Mikhail Saburov. Originally from Russia he settled in the U.S. where his films have been racking up awards at film festivals. His innovative exploration of the human condition made for a compelling short film. Mr. Saburov took the audience along for the emotional journey with some especially jarring sequences. The cinematography, lighting and set design complimented the storytelling. Warm tones were used to echo the warmth that Kathie felt for Jim. Louise Martin as Kathie, Sigrid Owen as Rogl and Derek Loughran as Jim all did an exceptional job of stepping into their characters. Louise Martin and Sigrid Owen had wonderful on-screen chemistry and were well suited for their roles. Derek Loughran didn’t move or have any lines but his expressive face let you know that his character Jim was there taking it all in. If you’re looking for a lovey-dovey-touchy-feely E.T. phone home type of film, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for an intelligently made gripping piece of art having to do with the complexities of emotions and the implications of love, you are sure to like, Like Us.