- Reviewed from the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
A science fiction of our time, Natalia Almada’s documentary is a standout piece of stunning nonfiction cinema.
Almada’s cool, disconnected narration speaks of another mother who competes for her children’s affection; she exists in the orbiting satellites, the cables that wrap the ocean bed, the shifting hum of electricity. “What will be the landscape of their childhood memories?”, Almada wonders.
The landscape of Dave Cerf’s sound design and the beautiful soundtrack by Kronos Quartet is otherworldly. Layered and haunting, it is as crucial to the storytelling as the alien lens of the film.
Conveyor belts of scrap metal, a person swimming against a manmade current: the technological stride for simulation and convenience is endless. Users is beautifully shot by Bennett Cerf, who floats us eerily into a raging forest fire, and captures fine industrial lines and light elsewhere that evoke Edward Hopper. Striking drone cinematography of manmade symmetrical landscapes encountering nature’s patterns evokes Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi.
However, Users goes beyond detached observations of man’s domination over nature into the shifting definition of the natural, specifically how Almada’s presence as a mother can be substituted and how an imitation of life is becoming second nature.
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