When a mysterious radio signal, beamed across the galaxy, is received by a human, but wholly alien civilisation, two scientists are selected to investigate the source of the transmission. 

The products of an ordered, regimented, telepathically linked hive-mind society, astronauts Cane (Rupert Graves) and Eva (Ellie Kendrick) are tasked with leaving their home world and voyaging light years to follow the signal to its source and, if necessary, wipe it out to prevent it challenging the hegemony of their civilisation, their ship loaded with embryos held in suspended animation, the seeds of a future colony. 

But when the inquisitive Cane’s telepathic connection to home is lost and he finds himself truly alone for the first time in his life, his rigid conformity begins to break down and he becomes obsessed with deciphering the meaning of the signal, convinced it’s an intelligent attempt to communicate. As he struggles to make sense of his emerging individuality, Cane begins to question the morality and purpose of their mission, forcing Eva to take drastic steps… 

Refreshing, if not wholly successful, in its scope and austerity, Native is a rare jewel to be prized; a smart, unashamedly cerebral slice of science fiction, it’s greatest ambition for its audience to engage and grapple with the ideas and concepts at it’s core – loneliness, isolation, conformity, individuality, personal morality vs. collective responsibility, hubris, transhumanism, evolution, the thirst for knowledge – exploring, like all the best science fiction just what it means to be human. 

Shooting on a shoestring budget, director Daniel Fitzsimmons realises a truly singular vision of an exotic, alien society that is still familiar, the organic yet still geometric nature of the ship’s interiors, hexagons and hard surfaces melding with veiny, sinewy structures and corridors, reminiscent of a beehive or ant colony, reflecting the insect-like nature of Cane and Eva’s hive society and their dependence on it, their sacrifice of their own individuality in order to conform, to fit in, the subjugation of the self. 

As the curious, increasingly rebellious Cane, Rupert Graves nabs the more sympathetic role, his emerging sense of individuality a source of exhilaration and terror, Graves working hard to communicate the despair and isolation Cane feels at being truly alone, disconnected from society, from the whole for the first time in his life even as we, the audience root for his nascent humanity to assert itself while Kendrick brings a pinched irritability to Eva, her confusion palpable as she watches Cane’s curiosity manifest itself. 

While Native may have worked better as a short film rather than a feature, often feeling stretched beyond it’s budget and script, Fitzsimmons’ film is a quietly dazzling exercise in minimalist storytelling, an inspired, unique vision designed to provoke thought and stimulate your brain. 

Movie Review: Native
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