Film Review: High Life

Film Review: High Life

I saw this one at this year’s NZIFF in Wellington. Directed by Claire Denis, High Life is about a group of prisoners who are used as guinea pigs in sexual experiments by an evil nurse played by Juliette Binoche on board a space mission.

I don’t normally speak in such plain terms about the plot of a movie – but there you have it. That about sums it up.

Juliette Binoche – who is normally one of the most highly watchable and incredible actresses on the planet, is severely squandered here.

Juliette Binoche delivers lethal doses of sexual toxicity to people who you can’t help but not give two shits about.

This is about as one dimensional a movie as you can possibly imagine. Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame, is the main protagonist in this film and does it no favours with his wooden, emotionless acting. All the while, the plot remains completely non-existent.

Why is there a need for sexual experimentation in space? Why is there a garden on the space ship? What did all of the prisoners do to get onto the ship in the first place and what are their individual stories? How does the IVF inspired seeding of the prisoners actually work?

We never find out. Nothing that adds legitimacy to the story is ever explained and no detail is provided about any of the characters in the story. And therefore, I couldn’t force myself to give a shit about anything that happened in this movie, no matter how hard I tried. Perhaps if I was on something, it would have been more amusing.

Roger Ebert rated this film really highly. He must have been on some pretty mean space cookies to get to that point.


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8 thoughts on “Film Review: High Life

    1. Yeah I know right! both him and his costar from Twilight Kirsten Stewart and both terribly wooden and really overrated as actors.


      1. Twilight wasn’t ever going to pick up an oscars… are they overrated though? I seem to remember their acting being panned….or that could have just been in my mind


      2. I say overrated, not sure about how anyone else feels, because they are terrible and yet for some reason they still manage to get acting roles in movies after that. It’s a mystery to me!


  1. I completely agree with your summary of this film. I expected a lot from it, and I do admire Claire Denis and I do love enigmatic films where “nothing is happening”. And even though I love all that, I hated this film. High Life was very pointless, and I could hardly wait for it all to end. As for Roger Ebert site, recently I do wonder what kind of people write reviews there. That is what critic Matt Zoller Seitz wrote in his review of the movie on the Roger Ebert site: “What does it all mean [the story in the film High Life]? I have a take but would rather NOT share it here”. And that it coming from a professional review. Well, I am sure if Roger Ebert were alive, he would not have rated this hmm, “crap of the film”, excuse me…so highly.

    As for Pattinson, yes, I am not a fan at all, but I do believe we are seeing good stuff from him these days and he does try hard to establish himself as a serious actor. His acting was very wooden in High Life, I agree, but in The Lighthouse (2019), I did see something good coming from him. I won’t discount this actor in future though I never did like him. There is also a movie Good Time (2017) with him where he is also good.


    1. Hi Diana, so sorry that I haven’t replied sooner, it has been a hugely busy week.

      I am so glad you agree with me, as I saw a few people on here who loved this movie and I found myself thinking…how? did we see the same film? haha

      I had to look up Claire Denis on IMDB to see if I had seen any of his other films, I haven’t though. Which ones in particular of his did you did like…I would maybe give his other films a go.

      Roger Ebert seems to be filled with gushing reviews of films that are really mediocre. I find that in some cases the reviews there sound a bit like ads or sponsored posts, but perhaps that’s me being cynical. The most honest reviews I find are the IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes user reviews. Although those people are’t deemed to be film ‘experts’ if there is such a thing, they generally tell it like it is and are clearer in meaning without waffling on too much hehe.

      I have got The Lighthouse to watch here, just haven’t had time yet, look forward to seeing that one as you and some others on here have said it’s really great. Also will have a look at Good Time now you recommend it. Thanks for your comment I hope you’re having a great weekend 🙂


      1. Claire Denis’s work is very controversial and…shocking. “Chocolat” and “White Material” are “heavy” films set in Africa and are hard to watch sometimes. One has to be prepared for that vision and appreciate it beforehand. I also know her as a director of that “New French Extremity” film that some people do not understand and are repelled by and others see something in – “Trouble Every Day”. It was gruesome, but I thought it had some interesting ideas. She is definitely not one’s usual director.

        I hope you have a very good weekend, too!


      2. I enjoy avante-garde films like this, but I prefer not too much gratuitous violence, it makes me feel queasy. I don’t really like the sound of these other films you mention for this reason, I will have a look at some trailers for her other films however I am going to assume that her work is not for me. Thanks for your response, speak soon 🙂


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