It may be called Real Life, but there is very little reality to be found in this week’s Electric Dreams instalment.
Based in a world that could be New York – or any other huge American city – Sarah (Anna Paquin) is on the hunt for a touch of escapism. Enter her girlfriend, Katie (Rachelle Lefevre) who works for a technology company that appeared to have made the ultimate virtual reality device that allows the user to become the version of them they dream about.
When Sarah delves into her tailor-made “vacation”, she is now, George (Terrence Howard). Set now in what seems to be the present day, George is a billionaire who has lost his wife and appears to have built virtual reality in order to escape the world he lived in. When George goes to take his vacation, he is now back in Sarah’s world. The clever switch between what is real and what is not is truly a homage to Inception.
There lies the conflict – two characters want to escape their respective lives in a virtual reality that neither can tell which life is real. Anna and Terrence play their parts fantastically, with both of them portraying exactly how confusing the world really is. Terrence in particular, is heartbreaking. His final scene in which Lara Pulver’s Paula successfully convinces him to stay in her world is a beautiful moment; it’s one in which the pain of humanity comes through in buckets.
Of course though, it turns out that Sarah made the wrong decision, killing herself to stay in George’s world in a moment of what appears to be the ultimate confusion. Therefore, the star of this piece is without a doubt the editor. Jump-cutting between scenes disorientates the viewer so they get to the point they don’t really know what the dream is. It may not be as finessed as Inception, but the key points are there, and in keeping with Phillip K Dick’s Electric Dreams theme, humanity is always at the forefront.
Real Life was probably one of the most put-together episode of the series so far. The instalment didn’t feel rushed, instead giving a real insight into both Sarah and George’s lives which was enough for the final scenes to have a real emotional impact.
Next week, executive producer Bryan Cranston comes in front of the camera as an emotionally abusive husband to on-screen wife Essie Davis in a dark and twisted tale of love.
Contributed by Helen Daly
Electric Dreams Concludes Sunday 29th October on Channel 4 at 9.00pm