Sitting through Seat 25…

..isn’t easy. Its not that its a bad film, its perfectly fine, except that the whole piece is hooked on a premise so silly, it just seems to flounder on the brink of farce. Which is such a pity, because its clearly well-intentioned, its that the script just lacks that certain polish that, er, a ‘proper’ ending or consistent internal logic might provide.

seat25Faye Banks (Madeleine Cooke) is trapped by her life: unfulfilled in her marriage, stuck in a soul-crushing office job working with people she doesn’t connect with, feeling unloved and estranged by a father who is emigrating to another country. Faye can see the days blurring into one another and she needs to get out, escape. Fortunately she wins a ticket to Mars.

Ah, Mars; apparently the ice caps have melted and Mars is warming up, gaining an atmosphere, and alongside it a magnetic field that shields the planet from any communication to/from Earth so no-one can actually see what is happening or how or why. An (apparently Scottish) entrepreneur has reacted to this by financing a one-way mission sending a bunch of settlers to Mars-  twelve men, twelve women, presumably engineers and scientists and experts. Accompanying these bold explorers will be another: a member of the public who wins a competition for the twenty-fifth seat on the flight.

There is a delightful flight of whimsy about this, something Ray Bradbury might have suggested in his Martian Chronicles, and in the 1950’s he may have pulled it off: but no-one can get away with a premise such as that in 2017 when people are still getting beaten up by photocopiers and driving banged-up noisy cars. Its just too silly. Mars is just too far away, getting there too difficult, the possibility of the Red Planet Terra-forming itself habitable unlikely in millennia never-mind the space of several years, the cost of getting there so great you’d never just give a ticket away to just anybody, or risk an Average Joe (or Josephine) with the responsibility.

Doubling even that, Faye wins the competition and doesn’t tell anybody. She doesn’t quit her horrible job and the horrible little people that work there, she doesn’t tell her husband who’s solution to their marital strife is trying for a baby. Faye just mopes around waiting for the competition results to go public, all the time getting bullied and ridiculed by almost everyone in her life. One of the problems with the film is that Faye cannot articulate what she is feeling or thinking; she internalises everything and mutely watches everything from the outside, in. She isn’t exactly an active participant in her own story.

seat25bWhat the film does well is portray the existential crisis of modern life, the general apathy and helplessness of people. Faye’s neighbours have a marriage as messed-up as her own: the wife bemoans her lack of a sex-life, resents her husband staying at home to look after their child while she goes to work. Faye’s work-colleagues externalise their own personal resentments by picking on and ridiculing solitary workmates, making false allegations of perversion against one man that causes him to get sacked. People trapped in horrible lives, daily nightmares of pointlessness.

Mars represents freedom, and escape, clearly the solution to all Faye’s problems, a road to another, better life. But it isn’t real: its Faye’s daydreams, looking out of her bedroom window and seeing Earth, below, as if she is already in orbit, or losing herself in dreams of walking on a Martian surface that is obviously just a beach tinged in orange light. Its romantic and perfect, not cruel and deadly.

I think Seat 25 really missed a trick regards the most elegant solution for the silly Martian fantasy it proposes: it should all be in Faye’s head. None of it should be real; the film should have pulled a Brazil-like twist in revealing that Seat 25 was the number of the park bench where Faye spends her lunchtimes from work. We all feel the need to escape, sometimes, and we all have our ways of doing it. Faye’s may have been a little more extreme but it was nonetheless valid- in a crazy world, just go crazy; half of Phillip K Dick’s fiction would echo such sentiment.

Seat 25, however, just goes all the way, and too far to maintain any credibility. Like a bubble floating in the air, it floats there for awhile, looking pretty and perfect, but all bubbles burst in the end.

Seat 25 is currently streaming on Amazon Prime

One thought on “Sitting through Seat 25…

  1. Pingback: The 2020 List: April – the ghost of 82

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