A fatally ill man tries to secure the future of his family in a near-future world where the toxicity of the Sun forces people to stay inside during the daytime in LX 2048, starring James D’Arcy (Agent Carter, Homeland). It’s a flawed yet thought-provoking surreal science-fiction film, chock-full of big ideas on our relationship to technology and what it means to be human and anchored by D’Arcy’s fantastic performance.
(Some spoilers below.)
D’Arcy plays Adam Bird, a married father of three on the brink of divorce from his wife, Reena (Anna Brewster). The year is 2048, and people are largely living indoors during the day because the sunlight is powerful enough to scald human skin instantly. Everyone spends most of their time in a virtual world known as The Realm. (The fact that Reena caught Adam virtually cavorting with his AI lover is just one of their many marital issues.) Everyone also takes regular doses of LithiumX to ward off depression. Adam, however, clings to his old habits, driving a convertible to the office in a hazmat suit and refusing to take the drug.
Then he learns he has a terminal heart condition and must shore up his struggling VR business long enough to maintain their premium insurance policy. It provides for a clone, complete with all of Adam’s memories and traits, to raise his family in his place once he dies. In fact, the clone would be an improved version of himself, and Adam isn’t quite ready to face this bitter reality. Things become much more complicated and weirder from there. We sat down with Director Guy Moshe (Bunraku) to learn more about the genesis of the film and its themes.
Ars Technica: Can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of this film?
Guy Moshe: It started with the human aspect. I’m happily married, got three kids. We were spending a lot of time with other families, and in a span of a year or so, there were a lot of these relationships going up in flames all around us—people separating and getting divorced. Even though every story is different and every individual is different, I could see a through line: people reaching adulthood and feeling like, at some point along the way, they didn’t get a chance to be all that they wanted to be, or that they could be. That gave birth to the idea of a person trapped inside a situation like this within their relationship. I also couldn’t escape the thought that part of the reason the family structure in today’s world is a little less sacred than it used to be is because of all this technological revolution going on around us, which reduces the need for social interaction. It makes us less of the social creatures that we were intended to be.
With these two linking ideas in mind, the film started evolving. I wanted to focus on one character’s journey. We all have the image of ourselves that we want to be, that we project to the outside world. But there’s also another image of who we really truly are, which a lot of us either never discover or never have the courage to admit to ourselves. Then there is another image of the way other people see us on the outside, and finally, the potential of the best version of ourselves that we can be. I wanted to examine the journey of a person as he discovers these different facets of himself.
It was one of the scripts that I thought about the most of everything I’ve ever written. But when I finally sat down to write it, the first draft of the script came out of me almost like a stream of consciousness. When I knew I was going to cast James [D’Arcy] in the lead role, I shaped it to his character a little bit more.
Ars Technica: How did James become involved in the project? He’s well-known for his supporting roles, and it was such a pleasure to see him in a meaty leading role for a change.
Guy Moshe: He’s such a wonderful actor. I was actually discussing a bigger project with James that was very close to happening while working on the script [for LX 2048]. When that other film ended up postponed, I couldn’t escape the feeling that James would be so great in this role. There’s something about James; he has such great humility, such an easy ability to command the stage. Because of his nature, his personality, he’s holding a lot back, and he has a great self-deprecating humor. Also, I love seeing these great actors, who don’t always get to be at the center of things, play these types of roles.
Ars Technica: When Adam confronts his clone, he discovers that his wife knew him better than he thought. The clone is more like what Adam, deep down, wished he could be. It was funny in a sad way.
Guy Moshe: None of us, I think, knows truthfully, who we would be, if by some magic somebody gave you the option to be all that you could be. A lot of us don’t have the capacity to even imagine ourselves like that, because we live inside ourselves a lot. Oftentimes it’s the people that are closest to us who can see and understand us more objectively. Yet the tragedy of a lot of these relationships falling apart is that we’re not able to communicate with one another, on the positive side, about the things that brought us together to begin with. So I knew that Reena would know better than him what would make him happy, but I also knew that there was no way in the real world that she could ever help him get to that place.
Ars Technica: In many ways, the film is quite timely. The Sun has not become fatally toxic, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and we’re having to engage with each other mostly in the virtual realm.
Guy Moshe: During the lockdown, I had the opportunity to be in some big Zoom meetings where suddenly I’m talking to 30 people [virtually]. On the one hand, you tell yourself, well, I’m actually interacting with people right now. Some people would tell you they’ve spoken more with their families [during the pandemic] than they did before.
But the first time, when [social distancing measures] were relaxing a little bit, we went out to a small birthday [gathering]; everybody in that small event couldn’t stop talking about how they didn’t realize how much they missed being in the presence of other people. So there is clearly a huge difference. I think that the sense of touch is something that is so important to human beings; it’s essential to our existence. To me, the scary part is this idea that we’re losing the ability to interact with the world in the way that we were biologically intended to do.
Ars Technica: The film explores this notion of the darker side of upgrades—viewing people as obsolete technology. And while the clones are deemed to be superior to the humans, there’s a virtual chip waiting in the wings that will one day make the clones obsolete as well.
Guy Moshe: What I loved is that the clone himself is aware of the fact that it is just a transitional upgrade. This cannot be the end result, because the moment you start taking it all digital, there’s no reason for the biology to exist anymore. To me it’s a very big question. Of course, there’s much more successful people than myself that are walking around now wondering if we’re all currently existing in some computer simulation. The film talks about it from the biological standpoint. Maybe that’s an admission on my part of what I would love to believe. There is this moment where [Adam’s AI lover] Maria [talks about] the fact that we might all be cells of a bigger body. If you could transfer this to the digital realm, that would equate to an existence that is 100 percent virtual. Everything, all the data that we interpret, even with our sense of touch, is eventually transformed into electrical impulses. So maybe it’s possible.
Whether or not that’s where humanity is headed, I’m sure I’m never going to live for enough time to know, but it certainly begs the question. I can tell you one interesting little thing. I have kids who love basketball. But if I give them the option to play physical basketball, or to play NBA 2K21 on the PlayStation, they’ll take the digital game any day of the week. I don’t know what to think about it, because I didn’t grow up like this. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it shows where we’re headed.
LX 2048 is available for streaming on Amazon Prime and VOD.
Listing image by Chimera Pictures/Quiver Distribution