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“Altered Perception” is a Hard Pill to Swallow

Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Review

By: Lauren Messervey

Starring Jon Huertas, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, and Mark Burnham
Directed by Kate Rees Davies
Written by Travis Romero
Blancbiehn Productions

What if you could change the way that you perceived the people you love? That is the question that Altered Perception, a film by Kate Rees Davies, seeks to answer. Although the film offers an intriguing meditation on how we value (and don’t value) each other in our romantic relationships, the film is unfortunately so cliché and problematic that the premise is lost in a drug-tripping, anti-pharmaceutical frenzy.

The film follows three couples who agree to be a part of a ground-breaking experiment that offers the chance for participants to chemically change the way that they see the world. After a drug injection straight to the eye, a team of doctors examine a series of video diaries and discuss the results of experiment.

The problems? There’s the women, each less likeable than the last, who embody the absolute worst qualities of the traditional “feminine persuasion.” Then there’s the toxic masculinity that embodies each of the men that moves them to commit violence against their partners. Finally, there’s the fact that in a cast sixteen people, there is only one person of colour, a thing that is now completely inexcusable in a society which is demanding better representation for diversity.

You’re not in it for the acting. The cast was so one-dimensional that it was sometimes painful to watch, especially from a feminist perspective. With a script that made me say, “of course this was written by a man,” each of the female characters is not permitted the depth and capacity to understand the gravity of the situations they find themselves in. Discussions of rape and victim blaming are handled so irresponsibly that the subjects appear glib, making the film exceptionally problematic. After all that we’ve gone through, especially with the rise of the #metoo movement, is this really the best we can do?

And that’s the problem with films like these. By falling into the trap of portraying tropes of toxicity in the gender spectrum, you’re ultimately alienating your audience. Everyone in this film is a caricature of archaic gender representation, which gets old fast. In terms of characterization, this inherent lack of depth and diversity makes the viewer indifferent as to whether or not the characters succeed or fail, live or die.

So, what are the positives? Like I said, the story is interesting. The analysis of the pharmaceutical industry and the damage drugs can cause to their patients was a valuable conversation to be had. Undeniably, there were some thought-provoking take-aways, and had the film been handled better, it would have made for a very moving view. But it wasn’t, and here we are.

Even when Altered Perception finally reaches its bloody climax, it’s not worth the hour of fumbling through some good ideas that amounted to very little. Here’s hoping that we won’t need another syringe to the eye to alter our own perception of the issues at hand.