When I think of Robin Williams’ acting I think of a vast array of giant emoticons rolled into one human being, exploding onto the screen in turn and leaving me feeling a little queasy. Maybe that’s a good thing but thankfully in this film Williams barely raises a smile. He’s the most pent-up man in the world – a super-nerd, obsessed by his job as a "cutter". And, pray, what is one of those? – you might ask. Well, this is where it all begins to get rather ridiculous. This film is based on a dubious premise. Naïm, who also wrote the screenplay, asks us to imagine that in the future parents will have a Zoë chip inserted into the brains of their as yet unborn children. These chips will then record the entire lives, warts and all, of these poor individuals, so that when they die a "cutter", who has sworn a code of decent behaviour of course but is theoretically unknown to the deceased, can edit these lives to a one hour or so gilded résumé to be played at their memorial service. Thanks Mum, thanks Dad!
This raises the only possibly interesting philosophical idea that faced with the notion that their every action was being recorded, people might begin to behave differently. I think most people would totally disintegrate psychologically knowing that their every move and action was going to end up in the hands of some stranger. It’s bad enough now with hidden cameras and CCTV. "You’ve Been Framed" would end up with literally lifetimes of material.
I sat there wondering how Robin Williams character, Alan Hackman, could edit some 80 year old’s life in a week or so. The film suggests that this is done by Hackman making a few prudent notes in interviews with the deceased’s family and then putting his super-mega-hyper-powerful computer with its two whirly handles to work. Maybe this might one day be technically possible but why bother? The futuristic society of Naïm’s world is full of rich Zoë supporters and not so well off, rather more scruffily dressed protesters who demand "the right to forget". This conveniently ignores the point that the individual concerned will forget what they’ve done anyway because they’re not allowed to replay the recording (or they die!!!). It’s only everyone else who gets to remember when you’re dead and laugh and cry at appropriate moments.
In the midst of the pseudo-scientific attempt at a storyline, Alan Hackman has to come to terms with his own childhood trauma, which helped to turn him into this repressed individual in the first place. His nominal romance with Mira Sorvino as Delila (a Biblical reference perhaps?) lacks any hint of chemistry and is totally incidental to the plot. Williams is decent enough as Hackman and remains on screen for almost the entire movie, but the only thing to really admire here is the cinematography of Tak Fujimoto, one of the best Directors of Photography in the business today. Naïm attempts to match some appallingly grandiose atmospheric music to Fujimoto’s sweeping multi-angle shots but after an initial misleading sense of excitement you soon come to realise what a lamentably bad film this is. Don’t even rent the video. If you had a Zoë-chip in your head you can bet that the 105 minutes you’d spend watching this film would be the first to head for the Recycle Bin.