Paul Hyett (director)
03 August 2020 (released)
04 August 2020
The concerns of our times are very bluntly and subtly combined in Peripheral which sets out to both satirise and caution the prevalence of mass-media intrusion and control with the concentration of power slipping into an ever smaller number of hands.
Bobbi (Hannah Arterton) is a highly successful first-time author who has taken the world by storm leading to demonstrations and public disorder. It’s all good publicity for her and her publishers Merlock represented by Jordan (Belinda Stewart-Wilson) who is now pushing for a follow up.
Trouble is Bobbi insists on writing with a very old manual typewriter and being now clear of drugs seemingly much less imaginative. Jordan suggests, in fact insists, that Bobbi begins to use high-tech AI hardware that will ‘aid’ with her writing. Sceptical of the technology and software that changes gender and edits the draft as the writer goes along, Bobbi reluctantly agrees.
The hardware is enormous getting larger with additions as her work progresses. Her debut was an attempt to sever her from her past but it comes back to haunt her in the shape of her ex Dylan (Elliot James Langbridge). Dishevelled he asks Bobbi to look after his drugs – the final deal – before he can move on. Initially reluctant Bobbi agrees with the reminder from Dylan that she was ‘on the ceiling’ when she wrote the book and if she requires inspiration…
The temptation is too much for Bobbi. She now becomes a person possessed; furious writing and imagination overload. There are side-effects with her hands and feet turning black as she takes the pills.
She has also been receiving video-cassettes (that haven’t been played not having a machine) from a fan of her book Shelly (Rosie Day). Shelly is using the tapes to get Bobbi to contact her but thinking that she is being ignored, Shelly resorts to ever more desperate methods for attention.
A visit from the writer Gilmore Trent (Tom Conti), whom Bobbi greatly admires, is the experience or the man she was expecting. (Should you meet your heroes?) As the deadline approaches - counting down on her screen – so she becomes more immersed in the tech and the process pulling her into a hallucinogenic, paranoid cyber world.
As much as Peripheral is at times a breeze block chucked at today’s power players and controllers there’s also an eye for details such as indications of Shelly’s mental condition with the new video cassettes are ever bloodier and Trent, a hardware advocate, not taking his gloves off during his visit. It’s these touches from writer Dan Schaffer and director Paul Hyett that lift the film up a couple of notches offsetting the more direct delivery of their ideas in particular towards the end with the visit from Merlock head (Jenny Seagrove).
The film is pretty much confined to Bobbi’s house which enforces her drive and virtual possession as the hardware and drugs take hold leading to some extraordinary sequences, one vaguely, disturbingly, reminiscent of Demon Seed.
It’s a head spin of a film that is visually impressive and well written giving the actors solid material to work with. Arterton is excellent in a singular performance of defiance if knowingly manipulated. Not quite a single-hander as she has plenty of visitors from her ex, Conti, Seagrove, Shelly and a philosophical delivery man but Arterton is very much the centre of the story.
Peripheral is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Google.