Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the science fiction short THE QUANTIFIED SELF by writer/director Gleb Osatinski. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:

“When well meaning parents turn the self-tracking into a family religion, the consequences fall far outside the quantifiable.”

The theory here is quite intriguing; as we watch this family try to attain happiness by hitting certain, measurable criteria. It is an interesting idea that takes things such as the fitbit or the calorie counting apps and uses them to show how someone can go overboard while still claiming their system brings them happiness. What makes this a fascinating idea is that this system is instituted by the stepfather who is already well in tune with it, so the rest of the family is forced to adjust.

While the adults give solid performances, the two young girls are so refreshingly natural in their roles that they prove to be the real standouts. Their performances were far beyond most child actor’s portrayals given their young age. Both of the actresses captured the different family dynamics inherent in the characters without ever seeming as if they were acting. These two perfectly capture the sibling rivalry aspects of the piece when the finale comes along.

Stylistically we vary between brightly lit homes and outdoor spaces to dimly lit computer rooms. Given the emphasis of technology on the family, this gives the facade of happiness while the actual calculation segments are much darker, more heartless. From a thematic standpoint, this perfectly meshes with the idea these people have latched onto that good numbers will produce joy, even if they are suffering to get the results.

All in all, this is an interesting take on health tracking gone wild that is backed up by some great performances. The use of lighting to convey the misery lurking beneath the surface carries things right up until the effective finale. Fans of books like “Feed” (2002) or science fiction along the lines of 1984 (1949) will find a lot to chew on in this short.

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Nightmarish Detour

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