Lapsis (2020) SFFF Review

Lapsis poster

Welcome to the world of the gig economy gone quantum, literally. Lapsis, the first fictional feature from documentarian Noah Hutton (Crude Independence, Deep Time) posits a near future/alternative present where quantum computing has gone mainstream. And the new “ride share” is cabling, running fiber across the wilderness to link massive slab like junction boxes. 

Ray (Dean Imperial) struggles to make ends meet as a driver for a shady airport delivery service. He doesn’t have a wife or kids but he does have a brother Jamie (Babe Howard) who suffers from Omnia, a chronic-fatigue like ailment. Getting him into a treatment program is well beyond his means.

So, despite his technophobia and lack of physical conditioning, he turns to CBLR, one of the companies hiring “independent contractors”’ to lay cable for quantum personal computers. No base salary, no benefits, but if you work hard you can make a fortune. Or so they say.

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Lapsis is a brilliant, and brutal, bit of social and political satire that solidly skewers companies like Uber and Lyft and their exploitation of folks desperate enough to fall into their trap. The ones who can’t see that the you take all the risks and expenses model is the high-tech answer to the old envelope stuffing scams.

And, speaking of scams, Lapsis doesn’t overlook the scammers that get their own cut of the action. Ray gets his tracking device and pushed to the head of the line thanks to his  acquaintance Felix (James McDaniel). Felix of course gets a cut of those big bucks Ray, or “Lapsis Beeftech” as the identity on his device reads, makes.

If you think this is bad, what he finds once he gets into the woods is worse. Among other unexpected surprises are the robotic cabling machines he has to compete with. If he can’t cover a route faster than them, he doesn’t get paid despite having done the work.

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He also finds that the actual Lapsis Beeftech was something of a scumbag, and that reputation falls on him now. At the same time, Lapsis’ willingness to screw over his fellow workers to get on the company’s good side also opens up opportunities for Ray. As if that isn’t enough of a complication he meets Anna (Madeline Wise), who has connections to his predecessor. And to some people who want to change the system. Choices will have to be made.

Shot with a realistic looking low tech aesthetic, everything looks like it’s been cobbled together and/or adapted from existing equipment. That kind of cost cutting and improvisation is familiar to anyone who has spent time working around almost any kind of equipment. I’ve seen that kind of ingenuity so often from the maintenance guys in the factories I’ve worked in. The future isn’t shiny and new, it’s cannibalised from the past and present, and Lapsis reflects this.

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Lapsis does suffer from a few problems. The film’s pacing is a bit inconsistent. It starts and ends strong but the midsection is somewhat slow. It’s not really boring, just somewhat off and not as funny as what comes before and after. It also gets a little obvious and heavy handed in its message at times, especially towards the end. Satire like this can be hard to pull off, especially for a first time writer, but Hutton has done a surprisingly good job of it. It’s certainly better than clunky message films like LX 2048.

How much you’ll like Lapsis will depend on your taste in humour and your political views. Obviously if you’re busy posting about how minimum wage laws and safety regulations are illegal burdens on businesses you’re going to hate it. Most others should enjoy it.

Lapsis played this year’s Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival who provided me with a screener. It’s been acquired by Film Movement for release to virtual cinemas ahead of a home video release. You can check their website for showings. The film also has a website if you want more information about it.

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