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UNITY

SYNOPSIS: We are all part of the one universe, born of the same atoms, yet we can't live together in harmony. Some 95% of human history is filled with wars, yet we keep on killing each other, maiming our world and failing to learn from our past. Instead of killing each other and the animals on our planet, we should raise our consciousness and evolve to Homo Spiritus.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It begins with the words of (unfounded) optimism by Victor Hugo on the screen, from Les Miserables, that after all the horrors, all will be light and peace and harmony in the world. But those words are quickly overtaken by footage of two terrified cows awaiting slaughter. It is a powerful visual explanation of what it means to be fully conscious as a human, empathising with the suffering of other sentient beings. The point is dramatically made, although the mournful underscore - as elsewhere in the film - rather overdoes it.

Of the dozens of actors who narrate the script, Geoffrey Rush is first, segue to Anjelica Huston, to Helen Mirren, and so on, the narrators coming and going in short segments, each as if adding to the previous thought, starting with the birth of the universe, with Marion Cotillard and then Mark Strong coming in with the arrival of fauna and flora on earth. The point here is the notion that the universe is a 'one' and we are all part of it. Joaquim Phoenix introduces mankind, and Jessica Chastain introduces us to the laws of the universe.

We all come from the same nebula, the same universe, so why do we separate ourselves into different, conflicting unities. Why are we not all one unity? Why do we always fight?

It's a hopelessly naive question and the film develops its anti war message with images over the narration, which posits that humans simply haven't learnt how to stop wars and violent conflicts. Nothing new here, we all want world peace ... well, in theory. But the film does string it together in a compelling fashion, if a little too breathless and earnest, with the actors in full gravitas mode.

From war is hell, the thesis (as it feels like) morphs into vegetariansim: eating animals is terrible. It makes arguments that don't really hold water, but have a superficial appeal, painting humans as unqiuely carnivorous in nature just for the sake of it. No uncomfortable parallels in the animal kingdom are addressed.

From here it is a clever transition into the exploration of spiritual necessity of selflessness, egolessness, love and compassion. Absolutely nothing with which to disagree, but it does get a bit silly when it tries to make a point about health that we never see animals wearing glasses or wigs or hearing aids or false teeth, as if that proved anything like a universal truth. It ignores the fact that sick or weak animals die, so of course the ones that we see are maginificently healthy. Not to be compared to humans, please.

Living by killing, as we do, is contrasted with living by loving, quoting philosophers and giants of history, as if we needed to be convinced. It is not surprising that the film shifts into the metaphysical mode and poses itself and us the question, what is the meaning of life. It foresees, or rather, the writer/director Shaun Monson hopes, that we will evolve from Homo Sapiens to Homo Spiritus very soon, at one with the universe, living in harmony as Hugo had also hoped.

Unity could have been made in the make love not war 60s and felt at home. That's not to say it is dated, because its themese are timeless, but it is so spectacularly idealistic and so fuelled by wishful thinking, so devoid of a connection to the real nature of humanity that it seems like a philosophy lecture wrapped in idealism, accompanied by music that is predictable and often mournful, to its detriment.

For an essay it's well conceived and executed as a screen experience, but as a movie it is a maudling, occasionally disturbing one, with a mood of hopelss naivity, driven by a frustration with the human condition. But at least it suggests that the meaning of our lives should be unity.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

UNITY (M)
(US, 2015)

CAST: Documentary with Rose Byrne, Lena Headey, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Munn, Jessica Chastain

PRODUCER: Melissa Danis, Shaun Monson

DIRECTOR: Shaun Monson

SCRIPT: Shaun Monson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Not credited

EDITOR: Shaun Monson

MUSIC: Yuko Sonoda

PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Mushroom Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 13, 2015







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