Native is the debut feature from director/writer Daniel Fitzsimmons, and is a low budget abstract science fiction drama, which is a little confusing but intriguing piece dealing with the issues of self identity and conforming within a society. The film makes effective use of its limited budget to create an unique mise-en-scène and looks visually impressive for a first time director. Fitzsimmons shows his appreciation and admiration for the science-fiction genre, elements of Tarkovsky noticeable in his work, with Native being left open to multiple interpretations and theories.
Native follows Cane (Rupert Graves), an astronaut travelling across the universe at the speed of light to the source of a distant, seductive musical transmission with his co-pilot, Eva (Ellie Kendrick). Cane and Eva both have telepathic links to their "twins", Awan (Leanne Best) and Seth (Joe Macaulay) who remain back on their home planet, (the film being loosely based on Heinlein’s short story called Time for the Stars, which refers to the Twin Paradox). However, as they travel further from home, their telepathic links to mission control known as the hive become compromised and they are forced to confront Cane’s unsettling obsession with the transmission, what civilisation sent it and also what they may be trying to communicate. Cane’s behaviour gets increasingly erratic as he becomes unable to telepathically link with the hive, but soon discovers a new sense of freedom and joy of having his own free will.
It is often easy for a reviewer to criticise low budget films, some critics seem far too eager to concentrate on the negative aspects of the film. However, when reviewing an independent picture one must admire the dedication, the passion and the hard work that goes into filmmaking. While I believe Native could have functioned better as a short film as opposed to a feature length picture, I found it quite ambitious and a good effort from a first time director.
There are quite a few aspects which I found to be intriguing decisions by Fitzsimmons. Upon researching, I came across one rather harsh review which criticised the film's dialogue, describing it as “clumsy”, however, I found this to be deliberate. The two main characters don't express much emotion, and therefore do not exchange dialogue in the same fashion as one would expect. This is an interesting way to show the development of Cane who becomes less rigid, and more vocal as he becomes unlinked from the hive. Fitzsimmons seems to be very interested in the theme of exclusion and rejection from society, and the issue of dictatorship, and indeed there is an almost Orwellian undertone to Native.
Both Graves and Kendrick give very strong performances and hold the film together. Graves - last seen as DI Lestrade in Sherlock - is hypnotic to watch playing a particularly enigmatic character. Kendrick, compelling in last year's The Levelling, seems almost robotic at first; reserved and very serious yet as the film unfolds she becomes just as erratic and free as Cane. Native is certainly an interesting look into what makes us human. Regardless of its low budget, this is a decent, well-acted and thoughtful first feature by Daniel Fitzsimmons (and co-writer Neil Atkinson). I am eager to see what they produce next.