More often than not, I’m aware of great science fiction movies long before they reach streaming services. Netflix shoved this movie in my face multiple times and I finally bit. I bit and I didn’t stop biting until the closing credits.
In a short montage and little explanation we are transported into the not-too-distant future where the human population has reached critical mass and people are starving from the lack of food. To combat this, genetic crops are created and wheat is made plentiful, however the crops pass along their mass producing qualities and families surge with twins and triplets. Seeing a crisis in the making, the Child Allocation Bureau rises in power and operates without oversight. Limiting families to a single child, the remaining children are put into cryosleep until they are able to be brought back.
The story begins when a mother dies giving birth to septuplets.
Noomi Rapace (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) astounds the audience with a phenomenal performance as not one, but seven distinct characters in this science-fiction mystery. Named by her/their father, played by William Dafoe for the days of the week, all of Rapace’s characters are forced to live in a loft for their young lives. Only once he feels they are capable of working as a unit does he award them to opportunity to leave the loft, all seven sisters forced to become a single woman, Karen Settman. Bringing each of their distinct personalities to the role of Karen Settman, the sisters flourish beyond the walls of the loft, despite only connecting with the outside world once every seven days.
The mystery begins when Monday doesn’t come home from her stint as Settman. Tuesday must proceed to assume the mantle, unsure of the previous day’s activities. When Tuesday is detained by Cayman, head of the CAB, played by Glenn Close, it appears something is amiss as the politician knows of the sisters. With the secret out of the bag, the sisters must defend themselves while unraveling a mystery about the disappearance of Monday. Thrust into the middle of a conspiracy that could rip the government apart, they pool their resources in an effort to survive.
The logistics of their lives are filled in by flashbacks where Dafoe teaches them to work as a single unit. Requiring them to “debrief” each night explains how seven different people could so completely embody a single persona. Even moments when we see them testing makeup colors, matching blood shot eyes, and donning the “Settman wig” explain most of our questions. The saying, “What happens to one, happens to all,” is reflected here as Dafoe is often forced into the role of being a villain-esque father. It builds to explain that the sisters are different, but operate as one.
The movie has roots in the dystopian science fiction realm, but it remains fairly light on the actual science fiction. This keeps the movie grounded and provides us a vision into a possible future that has the potential to become a reality. Unaware of what the movie might hold, when the premise and dilemma is presented, a vast many questions arise. Who is Karen Settman? How do they each navigate a single persona despite their unique personalities? The writes foresaw these questions and made sure they would be answered in a way that let the script flow in a logical manner.
The shortcomings of the movie are few and far between. The idea that the existence of the seven sisters could be the downfall of a politician’s career, despite her reign of absolute power is a bit far fetched. However, we find ourselves along for the ride in this familiar alien world. While Rapace does an outstanding job acting against herself, at times conversing with six other versions of herself, the characters are cliches. A lesbian, a computer nerd, a vixen, a leader, an artist, a fighter are all archetypes we’ve seen before and with so many characters, its hard to introduce a diverse cast and give them depth beyond stereotypes. However, if we think of them as a whole, the sisters stole the show and left us wanting more. I was only taken out of the story by the lack of reaction to the violence on the screen. I expected more terror or horror at the atrocities being uncovered, but due to the fast paced nature of the movie, I’m not sure the characters were ever given the opportunity to grieve.
Out of left field, this movie left me stunned, wanting more, and impressed with how a single actor’s range could create such a movie. A mystery movie with sci-fi undertones and knee deep in a dystopian world, I felt myself sucked in, excited to see what would happen and who would persevere in such a harsh world. A must see.