(director/writer: Noah Hutton; cinematographer: Mike Gomes; editor: Noah Hutton; music: Noah Hutton; cast:  Dean Imperial (Ray), Madeline Wise (Anna), Babe Howard (Jamie), Ivory Aquino (Jo), Dora Madison (Erica), James McDaniel (Felix), Frank Wood (John), Arliss Howard (Dr. Mangold); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jesse Miller, Joseph Varca; Couple 3 Films; 2020)

I don’t know if this is a film you can love, but it will get your attention.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Documentarian Noah Hutton (“More to Live For”/”King For Two Days”) goes the sci-fi narrative route, as he takes us into the near future to see what life would be like when humans and robots compete for places in the workplace and the humans have no job security.

Hutton sets his low-tech sci-fi film in what he calls a “parallel present. ” The film chronicles the adventure of the pudgy, middle-aged, non-techie Queens, New York, native Ray (Dean Imperial), a small-time criminal doing mob-like delivery things. Ray takes a freelance job over the weekend he has no business getting (he doesn’t have the necessary skill set and gets the job illegally) in upstate NY to lay cable for a company calling itself the key provider of “quantum” broadband, a much better and faster product than the alternatives (it can offer a new kind of high-speed stock trading on Wall Street). Though Ray is not comfortable walking in the woods with a tracking device on his hip and dragging a spool of black cable behind him, while also monitored by his supervisors on an app telling him to work harder and giving him commands via remote control. Ray takes the thankless job because he needs the money to pay the high-cost of the medical expenses for his younger brother Jamie (Babe Howard), who has the chronic fatigue syndrome-like condition known as “Omnia.”

The job requirements call for the workers to have a hard-to-get “medallion” like credential to be hired. But Ray obtains his under the table from one of his underworld cronies, who for the favor makes Ray kick back to him a percentage of his wages. Ray’s medallion once belonged to someone with the user name of Lapsis Beeftech, a name that for some reason angers the new cablers Ray meets upstate.

In an epiphany, Ray envisions what society has become. It slowly dawns on him that he’s a vic, as he witnesses the never fatigued robots taking over the job from the cablers too fatigued to work hard. Furthermore he gets some knowledge from the more knowing cablers like Anna (Madeline Wise), whom he will team-up with when realizing there’s a class war going on.

A disturbing sense of unease is created, leaving us to wonder if this really might be our future after the current pandemic may cause our economic system to collapse. Hutton builds a solid case for capitalism to merge with the tech world to create a New Social Order, where a large number of humans can be enslaved and a new system created. It’s a nightmare scenario not out of the realm of possibility, one that seems so real it sent a chill up my spine. I don’t know if this is a film you can love, but it will get your attention.

SXSW 2020: Lapsis review - an
      off-kilter drama for the working class

REVIEWED ON 4/11/2020  GRADE: B+