Anti Matter succeeds in raising questions about the nature of identity and exploring the implications of technology.
Theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss once concluded that “the number of people in the United States who would not recognize the phrase ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ is roughly comparable to the number of people who have never heard of ketchup.” But while teleportation has been a sci-fi staple of popular knowledge since the mid-20th century, such a method of transmission has never been closer to making the leap from theoretical to practical. After all, Chinese scientists recently made headlines for successfully “teleporting” a photon into space. Science may only be making its first steps toward a reality where energy, objects or even living organisms can be transported in such a fashion, but low budget British sci-fi film Anti Matter keeps just such a mind-bending scenario largely rooted in actual science.
Oxford PhD student Ana (Yaiza Figureoa) leads a small team of researchers who make a breakthrough that, as they describe it, could be as world-changing as the discovery of electricity. The team starts by teleporting small objects short distances but quickly progresses to a cat and, before long, Ana herself. But after Ana passes through the wormhole the team has created in their lab, she wakes up in her bed without functioning short-term memory, and her team—fellow researcher Nate (Tom Barber-Duffy) and computer whiz Liv (Philippa Carson)—begins acting oddly cold and cryptic toward her.
As explored in the 1958 film The Fly and its classic Cronenberg remake, teleporting living creatures could conceivably produce some horrific side effects. Anti Matter doesn’t go nearly that far, keeping unforeseen results of human teleportation as psychological trauma rather than body horror. Anti Matter more closely recalls Memento, as Ana is incapable of forming new memories and, in order to function, she must write everything down. But regardless of how much she insists that she must have incurred brain damage during the experiment, Liv and Nate (the latter of whom she’d been somewhat romantic with) treat her like a burden and appear to be gaslighting her. Even her own mother (Yolanda Vazquez) won’t speak to her without a password that Ana is incapable of producing.
Kier Burrows’ directorial debut, which he also wrote, may fall into the sci- fi genre with all the talk of wormholes and teleportation, but it’s a psychological thriller at heart. By focusing on its unnerving premise rather than offering much in the way of splashy visual effects, it’s a compelling piece of speculative fiction that, despite its good ideas, doesn’t quite reach its full potential. When the source of Ana’s predicament is finally revealed, the film spends too little time on its philosophical implications. Burrows uses deft editing at times, but the onslaught of flashback images that color Ana’s increasingly surreal experience begin to feel tiresome as the film progresses, and interpersonal drama among the trio of researchers seems tacked on. Meanwhile, the persistent and menacing animal cruelty protests raging outside the lab, which include people wearing creepy ape masks, don’t relate to the central mystery in any meaningful way and come off as too obvious an attempt at ramping up ominous imagery. But despite its flaws, Anti Matter succeeds in raising questions about the nature of identity and exploring the implications of a technology that may one day step outside the realm of science fiction.