Selfie review – droll Gallic eye on slaves to the algorithm

s ever-evolving technologies produce instant gratifications and fresh horrors, Selfie sees modern life as a tragicomic minefield fraught with absurdities. This French anthology film delivers biting social critique with a side helping of je ne sais quoi wit. Across five loosely connected stories from five seasoned film-makers (including Rust and Bone scriptwriter Thomas Bidegain), human idiosyncrasies are constricted by algorithms and reduced to likes.

Though pushed to ridiculous comedic heights, Selfie’s cautionary tales are not so far-fetched. A married couple whose famous vlogs revolve around their son’s cancer scramble for content now that he is cured. In a reversal of stereotypes, a female teacher anonymously ambushes a viral male comedian with vicious tweets, only to pique his romantic interest. A seemingly content man slowly unravels as he blindly obeys his algorithmic ads. An awkward millennial manipulates his ratings on a dating app through nefarious methods. And finally, the farcical pièce de résistance: on an island with limited phone signals, a wedding goes haywire as a massive data hack reveals everyone’s dirtiest online secrets. 모두 (digital) hell breaks loose.

Underneath these satirical Black Mirror-esque scenarios are all-too-relatable emotional issues. The characters wrestle with online abuse, shopping addiction, stalking impulses and countless other urban malaises. Notifications overstuff their lives – and the film’s frame – yet leave them dissatisfied. No wonder they whisper online metrics as pillow talk. It’s a weakness that, for a film so heavily centred on social media, Selfie lacks tech savviness when it comes to certain platforms. For instance, in the “Vlog” section, it makes little sense that the couple’s videos fluctuate between two million views one moment and a measly 900 hits the next simply because of the cancer-free announcement. Nevertheless, Selfie’s cackleworthy dialogues and energetic performances more than make up for the occasional missteps.

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