High Life – Review


High Life is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In an unspecified future, young criminals on death row are sent on a journey of no return; their mission is to gather scientific data on the energy of a black hole. Here the isolation of their trip provides an opportunity for each man and woman to contemplate their crime and repent their sins. However, as they speed through the universe, their bodies succumb to the effects of deep space travel, their lives controlled by drugs and forced medical experimentation. Our film opens with Monte (Pattinson) and a baby girl (Willow) alone and isolated on a drifting ship. Here Willow cries for her Daddy while Monte tries to fix the outer hull, offering the baby audio reassurance from his spacesuit. But how did a man and a newborn baby come to float in the darkness of space alone? Through a series of flashbacks, we are about to find out.


Anyone familiar with the work of Claire Denis will know the complexity and deep themes she instils in her work, ensuring High Life never falls into the standard sci-fi template. Here the isolation of space offers us an uncomfortable portrait of humanity, reproduction and survival. In doing so, High Life strips back the human experience to its base components of sex, reproduction, protection and survival, demonstrating the animalistic nature of all humans in situations beyond their control.

This animalistic narrative is coupled with the almost biblical imagery of nature, the ship’s garden a symbolic Garden of Eden floating in the cold, dark void of space. Pattinson’s performance is electrifying from the first scene to the last, as are the stunning ensemble performances, particularly Binoche as the reproduction-obsessed Dibs. Meanwhile, Yorick Le Saux’s Cinematography uses distinctive colour palettes to create feelings of isolation, identity and vulnerability, adding to a sense of safety versus danger and control versus freedom.