A Review of PERIPHERAL
Paul Hyett’s 2018 film Peripheral is one of the most mental films I’ve seen this year, and the irony of writing a review for this film to a deadline has not been lost on me.
The film is centered around a young literary sensation who is working on her second book. It follows her struggles to not become a pawn in the ‘new and improved’ modern world alongside her complex personal life. When she’s forced to accept a computer to aid her writing, Bobbi is given 181 days to finish her difficult new novel.
The film really doesn’t hold back on anything. A decent amount of nudity, computers taking over, stalkers, drugs and a hysterical birth. More on that later.
Hannah Arterton is a fantastic actor and I really got behind her performance. I really felt her pain with her silent crying of “same shit different day” and her look of determination is truly inspiring. In many ways Bobbi is a relatable character; with an annoying ex who you still want to sleep with; a hardcore feminist view on life; and constantly fighting against the oncoming wave of new technology- it’s hard to not like or relate to her. Until she has sex with a computer.
Something I was really interested in was that the computer changed the gender of her main character. There wasn’t enough about the computer’s misogynistic view- maybe that’s why it didn’t ask for her consent.
The two drug fueled sex scenes felt slightly out of place and weird. I don’t mind the first one, it’s not really relevant to the narrative but it helps complicate things nicely between Bobbi and Dylan. It also gives us our first in sight to the ‘mind of the computer’- making me want to live life as a hermit far away from technology.
I was amused by the absurdity and boldness of the computer sex scene, but it definitely went on for too long. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feel uncomfortable, or confused, or want to kink shame the computer for tying her up. The baby doesn’t seem at all relevant to the story. This could just be that there’s too much going on for it to make sense. We were always told in Script writing class not to just add new characters or ideas when we ran out of ideas for our protagonist –– that’s just sloppy writing.
The birth of the baby is a scene that will never leave me. The baby almost catapults of the womb and skids across the floor. A weirdly hysterical moment in a rather serious film which had me giggling for far too long. What confused me the most was- what was the baby's purpose? After she decides against killing it (twice) the baby isn’t shown or mentioned again. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention properly but it did feel like someone said ‘what is she has sex with the computer and gives birth?’ but didn’t have enough of a fleshed out idea to make it the point of the story.
About 90% of the film is based inside the house. This feels very restrictive yet I think it reflects Bobbi’s emotional state. It feels as if the corner Shelley has put her into is effectively shown through location. I had an agonising urge for her to leave the house and just get away from it all conflicting with my desire to know what the hell was going on.
Even when she destroys the computer at the end, it’s like great you’ve destroyed the computer but you’re still going to write, you’re still trying to change the world and who’s going to publish you now?
As much as I’ve slated it, I did actually really enjoy watching this film. I didn’t feel the need to pull out my phone and scroll through pinterest at the same time because there was so much going on I constantly needed to concentrate. I enjoyed the messy plot but I did feel some elements could have been saved for a sequel, or fleshed out to make it two hours long.