A Sublime Life (Uma Vida Sublime) (2018)
A Sublime Life (Uma Vida Sublime) (2018)

Genre: Drama and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: April 6th, 2018 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Luis Diogo Actors: Eric da Silva, Susie Filipe, Rui Oliveira, Paulo Calatre, Valdemar Santos, Mafalda Banquart, Angela Marques, Teresa Chaves

 


 

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il Moreira (Rui Oliveira in a convincingly pitiable turn) has a nice car and a large house, but his wife nags him and his daughters are concerned only with purchasing new jeans and iPhones. And at work, he’s terribly bored, sitting in an empty office most of the day. When a stranger on the street asks him for directions to the very same restaurant he was planning to dine at, Gil willingly hops into the car as a navigator. But when they arrive, the driver pulls out a gun and forces Gil to douse a rag in chloroform and press it to his face, knocking him unconscious.

When Gil awakes, he’s strapped into a chair in an ill-lit, windowless room. From his position, he can clearly see photographs dangling along a line, depicting horribly mutilated people; dried blood is splattered across the floor; and metal instruments of torture are lined up on a nearby table. A few seconds later, his kidnapper appears, enthusiastically interrogating Gil about his cheerless life, slapping him when he tries to question the attacker’s motives, and sticking him with scalpels as a reminder of his total power over the immobilized man.

The sudden, intense, dark shift in tone and events gives “A Sublime Life” a certain level of intrigue beyond the typical unhappy-life melodramas. Questions abound and nervousness lingers, especially as the kidnapper’s ultimate intentions remain unclear – and his inclinations to hurt his captive are uninhibited. Is the evil doctor just a sadistic maniac? Or is he actually trying to help people? He eventually reveals that he’d like his victim to choose two of his five major senses to lose; should Gil not be able to decide, he’ll take them all away.

In a parallel storyline, that same mad doctor, Ivan (Eric da Silva), works at the Radelfe Clinic, gaining a shining reputation for his skills in oncology, along with gratitude for his extensive philanthropic contributions. And he has a loving girlfriend, Andreia (Susie Filipe). Although it takes a good deal of time before Ivan’s experimentations become apparent (in the clinic, he purposely misdiagnoses patients with terminal cancers so that they’ll value life to a greater degree – especially when they find out, a few days later, that they’re not going to die), his behavior is so appalling that even if he hopes to change lives for the better (in a traumatizing way, like in “Saw”), his character is irredeemable. He’s a monster; he’s the kind of villainous persona that desperately needs a taste of his own medicine.

The premise is actually quite original and amusing, though its entertainment value lies more in its unpredictability than in its execution. During sequences in which Gil is not being terrorized, the drama and romance don’t ring entirely true. They do, however, considerably contrast the moments of physical and psychological torture. Further anticipation is derived from wondering whether or not Ivan will be caught – not just at the clinic, but also for his extracurricular kidnapping routines. Since little sympathy can be derived for Ivan, his outcome isn’t nearly as interesting as the outcome of his “patients,” whose survival depends on his freedoms to conduct multi-day sense-deprivation sessions. The finale is also riveting, as it gives audiences all the confrontations they’ll be itching for – though it goes too far in one aspect, as if to spell out in detail a conclusion that viewers could have merely assumed (it relates to writer/director Luis Diogo’s message, partially to justify Ivan’s derangement, but it didn’t need to be so blatant). Sadly, this saps the momentum – to close on a mystifyingly dull beat (and an eyebrow-raising final image).

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10