DUAL (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Pamela Powell
Duplicity. It’s a concept that has been around since Shakespearean days, but certainly the 1996 movie Multiplicity starring Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell comes to mind as well as the very recent“Swan Song starring Mahershala Ali. Dual, premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival written and directed by Riley Stearns, takes this duplicity concept and turns it on its head, making a bold and satirical statement as to what life really means.
The lead role is Sarah played by Karen Gillan and takes place in the future where people perhaps have an expensive choice of creating their clone when faced with death in order to alleviate their family’s grief of losing someone. Yes, it’s similar to Swan Song, but this description is where the similarities end.
Dual depicts Sarah whose monotonous life is jarred by a terminal diagnosis, delivered in an arrestingly emotionless way. She decides to create a double, train her, knowing that her boyfriend and mother will never feel any loss after she dies thanks to her duplicate. However, suddenly her terminal illness is no longer and she is predicted to live a long and healthy life. Unbeknownst to Sarah, she must terminate her double as there can only be one Sarah. Her double, however, wants to continue to live and rules being rules, they must duel to the death and the winner can stay.
Stearns’ signature style shines through this pitch black comedy. Contemplative at times, Dual raises some ethical questions as it narrowly focuses on the task at hand…train to fight for your life. But remember, this is a comedy and we sometimes laugh aloud or even reluctantly as the double of Sarah seems to be more likable than the original or when the caveats of the duel are unhesitatingly laid before Sarah. It’s an unusual comedy that takes us all down some dark paths and when you think you see the light is at the end of the tunnel, there’s a perfectly placed fork in the road.