Like (2016) by Giulio Manicardi

Reviews

Director: Giulio Manicardi
Writer: Giulio Manicardi
Year: 2016
Starring: Antonio Pauletta, Yuri Casagrande Conti (Voice), Giulio Manicardi

Synopsis:
A mysterious serial killer hosts a macabre online show, where he puts on trial and executes his victims through a live streaming format. However the final judgement for the victim comes from the jury  – the shows viewers who can decide to kill or spare the victim with a simple vote of “Like” or “Dislike”.

Review:
Opening with footage of an idyllic family, my initial expectations of LIKE were that this would become something akin to a found footage horror but as soon as that thought appeared the tone and style shifted from that of being recorded by the family to being a recording of the family, and our mystery voyeur has an unhealthy fixation on the family patriarch, Jerry – and with good reason.

Soon Jerry finds himself waking up; tied and gagged in a black, featureless room with only a camera and projector facing him. Don’t worry however this is no torture-porn (I do hate that term) knock off but rather Jerry has unwittingly become the contestant in a bizarre online ‘judicial entertainment’ show where the stakes really are life and death.

The show is led by a strange yet compelling masked host who lays out the facts for his anonymous viewers and through a compelling (and very well written) exposition we are led to a final verdict as determined by the number of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ generated by the viewers.

Now essentially LIKE only has two characters and one location – and because of this initial layer of the movie it is vital for the dialogue, and the writing as a whole, to not only be compelling but also of an extremely high standard in areas relating to pacing, realism and quite frankly even just entertainment.

Without even one of these elements I have witnessed films devolve quickly into tedium and lose the interest of the viewer. Thankfully here, writer/director Giulio Manicardi manages to succeed with aplomb and the interaction between our two leads is both witty and compelling, holding up even on a second viewing when despite knowing what was going to happen I was still captivated by the dialogue.

Credit also needs to go to the actors; Antonio Pauletta as the desperate Jerry and Giulio Manicardi (performing another role on set as the killer) as well as Yuri Casagrande Conti (providing the voice of the killer) as the killer both of which combine to expertly bring the character to life. In particular the light-hearted and playful voice given by Yuri Casagrande Conti to the killer gives a sense of fun to the proceedings and arguably lends the whole affair a sense of inconsequential entertainment from which the voting audience can simply forget about the ramifications of their decisions while Jerry’s family and those around him cannot.

From this point, I did hint that there might be another way to see the film, away from our ‘two’ characters and that is in investigating the role of the jury; the viewers; the anonymous masses that get to choose the fate of Jerry.

Here, LIKE makes these peripheral, unseen masses a vital force in the narrative and although one would expect things to only go one way it nonetheless provides an important alternative angle for the story. The film does not go as far as to make the viewer complicit, the frequent change from second to third person camera angles sees to that, but nonetheless it leads us to ponder the very same as Jerry – are the vigilantes any better than those they seek to punish in the name of justice?

Ultimately everything in LIKE is there for a reason whether it be to drive the story or the resolution and in these twenty minutes Giulio Manicardi has created a fantastic calling card that marks him out as a talent to watch.

Benefiting from a tight and engaging script, strong performances and a couple of nice little twists, LIKE takes the straight forward concept of vigilante justice and mixes it with contemporary themes of how we use and are emboldened by the internet and social media. As we participate from the safety of behind our own keyboards are we really aware of the impact one click of a button could have?

Version Reviewed:
I watched the English language screener version of the film online. Like looks and feels like a professionally shot film which is to say something of its quality and it is well edited. The only issue to be had is that the dubbing goes out of sync at some point in the final quarter however this is not a major issue and is reasonably common when dealing with dubbed European films.

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