Say this for Robert Pattinson, the guy refuses to play it safe. While most young actors would have probably parlayed the blockbuster success of Twilight into a string of fat paychecks for light lifting, he continues to choose the road less traveled, leading his fans to some challenging destinations.
His latest, Claire Denis’ kinky art-house space odyssey High Life, may be his knottiest — and naughtiest — film yet. Denis, the boundary-pushing French director of Beau Travail and Trouble Every Day, is toying with familiar genre formulas in her English-language debut. The movie looks like any number of slightly ominous sci-fi films, but its themes are more mysterious and elliptical.
Pattinson plays Monte, one of several death-row inmates (Mia Goth, André Benjamin) shot into the cosmos as human guinea pigs. Juliette Binoche, with a long, witchy, equine braid and a mad scientist’s chilly air of calm, is the doctor who ushers them into a pervy carnal confessional called the “f—box,” where they leave behind deposits for fertility experiments. Think The Handmaid’s Tale by way of David Cronenberg.
High Life is, at turns, gorgeous, ridiculous, and confounding. Yet, the more you wrestle with it, the more it haunts you. As for Pattinson, who commits as fully as ever, he can rest easy knowing that he’s left his audience another riddle to chew on. B–