SXSW 2017: “This Is Your Death” Review by Ashley Menzel

SXSW 2017 Review: This Is Your Death 

As only his second directing credit, Giancarlo Esposito has brought us the shocking and stark look at society known as This Is Your Death. During a live aired television show, a terrible event happened that resulted in the death of a contestant, and of course, the network uses this as an opportunity to capitalize on this new found realm of shock tv. Producer Ilana (Famke Janssen) pushes both host, Adam (Josh Duhamel), and producer Sylvia (Caitlin FitzGerald) to work together on a show featuring death. Both, at first are horrified by the network looking to capitalize on it. The idea occurs to Adam to use this as an opportunity to further his message that life is precious and that it should not be taken without purpose. This ushers in his new reality show, This Is Your Death, of which people commit suicide for the benefits of their families.

The show progresses to push the envelope more and more, pushing the morality of the producers, host, and network further and further. Adam’s sister, Karina (Sarah Wayne Callies) is a nurse and has to be faced with her brother’s fame and frankly immoral job, which puts a great deal of stress on her and their relationship. Mason (Giancarlo Esposito), a blue collar working man trying to keep his family afloat is tied into the story as we see him interact in his daily life with his family and seeing the show for the first time. 

This Is Your Death is far from an easy film to watch because of the subject matter. It is in your face and unapologetic from the opening scene until the end. It is a blatant social commentary on our need for this idea of “constructed reality” and relying on the pain, suffering, and misfortunes of others for our entertainment. It gives a no holds barred view into the networks’ and media’s need to press further and further into the immoral ground in search for ratings. The subject of suicide is deeply personal to me and made this film even more unsettling and incredibly shocking in the best way.

The performances by the entire cast are phenomenal. Josh Duhamel is a disturbing character study and a symbol of our swaying moral compass. His intentions start out well, but become muddled and misguided in his endless pursuit. Giancarlo gives us a raw performance demonstrating both his passion for the film and for the subject matter. His quiet and honorable downfall is a tale of the common working man and the desperation that sinks in when all hope is lost.

This Is Your Death is a poignant and important film that begs to be seen. Even the title is a call to our sense of schadenfreude or desire to delight in the misfortunes of others. It is shocking, violent, and one of the most important films of THIS year. Faced with a society that is increasing desensitized by violence and craving more exploitation, This Is Your Death forces us to look at ourselves through a not so flattering lens and perhaps finally seeing what is slowly turning us into monsters.

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