JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Pulse (Director: Stevie Cruz-Martin) - July 1, 2020
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Pulse

3.5 3.5
84 min.

Mirror image

Writer-actor-editor Daniel Monks and director-cinematographer Stevie Cruz-Martin have teamed up to create a first feature that hits, misses and stretches the suspension of disbelief, but is well worth a look for imaginative storylines and their inventive realization via the images, cast and music (the reflective songs such as “Dare” and “Set Free” contrast well with the frequently brooding score from Featurette).

The biggest hit is the premise: faced with debilitating pain and possible loss of mobility due to osteoporosis as life is just beginning, what would anyone do to live normally? In the case of ever-radiant Ollie (Monks warms the screen with his infectious smiles and runaway curls), the problem is solved via experimental transplant surgery. No, not the errant hip, but the entire body is to be replaced. Realizing that’s the only hope for a decent future, the engaging young man adds a caveat to the procedure: put me in the body of a woman. Naturally, that request adds the further narrative twists as to “Why?”: a transgender bent, wanting men but unable to come out as gay or desiring a new wardrobe, and full-service makeup? Stay tuned.

With divorced mom (Caroline Brazier is equal to the daunting task of the love-hate relationship with her only child) mostly at his side (and her current boyfriend—Troy Rodger cheers them on)—soon, daughter appears (beautifully rendered in all senses of the word by Jaimee Peasley as—who else?—Olivia). The artistic trust does a superb job of reminding one-and-all that Ollie’s personality/desires remain intact in Ollie II’s shapely body—the first view of the surgical results is a gem of cinematography, conjuring up another take on Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

Now with the miracle of science a success, what could possibly go wrong? In the supporting cast, the principals are largely Ollie’s fellow students, confidantes and partying pals. Best friend Luke (Scott Lee) is a little uneasy with the transformation, his girlfriend, Nat (Sian Ewers) is far more accepting and Britney, the “bad girl” of this quartet of amigos (Isaro Kaytesi shows impressive emotional range) serves as the catalyst for the newly minted belle of the ball.

The wheels start falling off in the narrative with Ollie’s interactions with her/his old pals in such remarkable new skin. Before you can say “let’s dance and get drunk” the troupe lets their hair down (and the alluring “new girl” readily lowers her panties), setting the stage for the inevitable “crimson discharge” as the unwitting virgin opts to immediately get laid (other bodily fluids make one appearance too many).

The inevitable love triangle (Nat, Luke, Ollie) calls into question what true friendship is—especially keeping calamitous secrets emerging. A further romp with Mom’s beau by the suddenly sexual changeling can be seen miles away and is awkwardly staged.

As the embarrassments, unmaskings and accusations pile up, it’s hard to imagine any other solution than the proverbial long walk off a short pier (with some aquatic cutaways to not so subtly drop the hint).

The final solution—most certainly a reversal of fortune—manages to bring the film over the finish line with a final dance and stare from Ollie that offers the hope of a better life ahead.

In their next full-length offering, one can only hope that the filmmakers will try to explore fewer issues and situations simultaneously and dig deeper still into what they really want to say above all else. JWR

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Director - Stevie Cruz-Martin
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