Movie Magazine International

Thomas in Love

Belgium/France - 2000

Movie Review By Casey McCabe

For my money, the best science fiction always hovers dangerously close to known reality. Show me a stargate to a parallel universe and I'll happily go along for the ride. But give me a taste of my own future, and the thrills and chills suddenly become visceral.

"Thomas In Love" does not sound like a science fiction movie. It sounds like an art house film from Belgium in which the characters talk a lot, confessing painfully deep feelings with cool European candor. But "Thomas In Love" turns out to be both. Throw in the daring device of having a lead character who doesn't actually appear in the film, and you'd have to put “Thomas In Love” on a very short list of new films that feel fresh as well as new.

We view this near future entirely through the eyes of Thomas Thomas, a severe agoraphobe who has not left his apartment in 8 years, nor allowed anyone to cross his threshold. Director Pierre-Paul Renders and screenwriter Phillipe Blasband suppose a world where Webvan has ultimately triumphed. Thomas, as well as non-agoraphobes we assume, can pretty much order all their business and pleasure online. Though the technology allows him to survive in a cloistered urban world, Thomas is not entirely anti-social. He communicates with his therapist, his mother, various vendors and social workers through two-way telescreens not unlike the ones that have been around since the 1964 World's Fair. The advances in cybersex are noteworthy, but one gets the feeling that similar beta tests are probably being demonstrated to Silicon Valley venture capitalists even as we speak. The delivery of compassionate state funded social services via an efficient online model is one of the film's larger leaps, especially for those of us living in a Bush administration. But again, this is Belgium's future we're talking about.

No, as the title suggests, Thomas' quest is an ancient one. He's looking for love amidst a world of rote transactions. Even having a next generation Lara Croft at his sexual bidding ultimately leaves him empty. Online dating services only serve to remind how convenient it is to keep relationships out of the real world. And prostitution in the future — imagine the Mustang Ranch being run as a Kaiser HMO — still leaves the agoraphobe a daunting threshold to be crossed.

"Thomas in Love" is the story of one man crossing that threshold. If not forewarned, you might be able to watch the entire film and never quite register that you've never even seen Thomas, just heard his voice....soothing, rational, pitiable, intelligent and human. And though the film never leaves the apartment, there's surprisingly little claustrophobia. It's easy to imagine filmmakers of another generation, or country, tackling the same material and hammering it into full-scale foreboding. But Renders prefers cool to chilling, and even as he depicts a future that we all know is coming there's a pleasant lack of cynicism. This future, he seems to suggest, isn't for everybody. And in the end, it's not even for Thomas.

© 2001 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 07/01

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