This is a sly devil.
The concept of using technology to give people new levels of living fantasy isn’t new, but it’s utilized in speculative fiction all too often as a cautionary tale for the pleasure seeker.
In Memory Box, we get to peek in on a young woman (Halt and Catch Fire‘s Mackenzie Davis) who gives the pleasure. Redrawing her complexity with every scene, the short doesn’t so much slap us in the face with a twist as it slowly peels the blindfold off our eyes.
Gorgeously shot with blinding whites, dangerous reds, pitch black corners and pale skin poured into a slinky dress, the young woman and her memory-recreating partner answer the demanding robotic voice of a customer (Shane Carruth) who wants more than he paid for.
As the wigs and artifice come off, the film questions the real nature of renting out your desire to someone else. That difficult question is embodied perfectly in Davis’s character, not only because few actors do haunting desperation as sharply as she does, but because the power structure at play is so exquisitely nebulous. That’s a credit to the writing and directing of filmmaking partners Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell, who have shaped something darkly magical here that could hang happily next to any episode of Black Mirror.
The final scene is a tantalizing thrill, like being told Santa Claus is in your living room as your parents lock your bedroom door. It delivers an aching dramatic tension that it refuses to release. Like with all things in this world, you’d have to pay extra for the happy ending.
Sadly, this is Aites’ final film. He died in April after being diagnosed with cancer in January. Ewell, his filmmaking partner and fiancee, is raising funds to give the film a proper release.
Images: Field Pictures