by George Wolf
We’ve been grappling with the falseness of our social media identities long enough now that we should have expected this attack of the movie clones. Dual takes the premise of last year’s Swan Song and filters it through the high concept lens of The Lobster for an absurdist comedy that – as my grandpa used to say – is as black as the inside of your hat.
Karen Gillan is Sarah, who coughs up a great amount of blood and learns she is going to die. Sarah is told what she has is “painless…but killing you,” as writer/director Riley Stearns begins taking direct aim at our current state of anxiety.
To save her boyfriend (Beulah Koale) and mother (Maija Paunio) from the pain of losing her, Sarah signs up for clone replacement. But as Sarah2 arrives and starts the assimilation process, the original Sarah’s diagnosis is reversed, and now we have a problem.
“We can’t have two of you walking around forever. That would be ridiculous.”
Sarah2 has been in the world long enough to invoke her right to request a “stay,” which means that in one year’s time, a duel to the death will leave only one Sarah bathing in the cheers from both a stadium and broadcast audience.
So Sarah1 gets to work, in an effort to prove to her battle trainer Trent (Aaron Paul) that she really wants to live, and win back her mom and her man who already like Sarah2 better.
Stearns trades his thriller vibe from 2019’s The Art of Self-Defense for a near-future sci-fi landscape and finds delightfully organic ways to bring us up to speed on the rules of the game. And with Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers and Jumanji franchises), Stearns has the perfect partner to set the humor level on deadpan and never budge. The laughs come with a cynical, satirical bite, and while some may be a bit obvious, Stearns scatters other hilarious breadcrumbs just out of focus (don’t miss the title of the video Sarah is watching early on).
Dual doesn’t shy away from the absurdity of navigating a culture of death and winning Instagram posts. In fact, that’s where it lives, fully committed to finding out who really believes laughter is the best medicine.