Coma (2022)

Bonello’s new ‘pandemic lockdown’ film is difficult to pin down—it’s disjointed yet free, disturbing yet human, as it experiments with form, content and aesthetics with varying results.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,380

Dir. Bertrand Bonello
2022 | France | Mystery/Experimental | 80 mins | Various aspect ratios | French, English & German
M18 (passed clean) for sexual scene

Cast: Louise Labeque, Julia Faure
Plot: Online behaviour and content consumption through the eyes of a teenage girl who immerses audiences into her dreams and nightmares. Navigating between dreams and reality, she’s guided by a disturbing and mysterious YouTuber, Patricia Coma.
Awards: Won FIPRESCI Prize – Encounters (Berlinale)
International Sales: Best Friend Forever

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Dreams & Nightmares; Isolation
Narrative Style: Freeform
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Experimental Arthouse

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No

One might not immediately think of Bertrand Bonello when listing contemporary French directors, but he has been one of the more intriguing filmmakers around with works such as House of Tolerance (2011), Nocturama (2016) and Zombi Child (2019). 

His latest, Coma, the winner of the FIPRESCI Prize in the Berlinale Encounters section, will be a curiosity for fans of experimental arthouse cinema. The title is deceiving—plot-wise, no one’s in a coma; instead, it refers to a person’s last name. 

Yet, it is a befitting title for a ‘pandemic lockdown’ film, and in a warped meta-titular way, the ‘coma’ is symbolic of the dazed state of isolation and insanity that has afflicted millions across the world as they are stuck at home with nothing much to do. 

“The feeling of loss is dreadful because it is incomprehensible. Yet, at the same time, it is magnificent in its depth.”

Bonello trains his camera on a teenage girl, lonely and restless, who becomes drawn into the world of a mysterious YouTuber, Patricia Coma. 

As the film explores themes of hypnosis, dreams and nightmares, Bonello experiments with form, content and aesthetics, including animation, Zoom calls and hallucinatory low-fi virtual reality-type sequences. 

It’s difficult to pin down what he is trying to do or say, but the film, despite some very dark material, is hopeful that humanity can overcome this trial by fire.  Perhaps Coma may be best described as David Lynch meets Todd Solondz in French. 

I can’t say I enjoyed it a great deal, but I don’t dislike it either.  It’s disjointed yet free, disturbing yet human, and at least, visually and sonically so erratic that it is interesting to look at and experience.

Grade: B


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