Review #Venezia74: Downsizing

Directed by Alexander Payne and released by Paramount Pictures, Downsizing is a science fiction comedy-drama, starring Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, Kristin Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Neil Patrick Harris, Maribeth Monroe and Jason Sudeikis.

Downsizing is the story of a incredible experiment made on the human population: Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink people down to five inches, hoping that this transformation could help reduce global warming and help the environment.

The miniaturized world is appealing, the perfect copy of the American Dream that all world imagined years ago. Everything in that little world is beautiful, affordable and people live a life of luxury. Things that are very appealing also for the protagonist of this film, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), who convinces his wife to do the transformation and live a better life in a small world. Unfortunately, Paul is abandoned by his wife, who couldn’t take that leap, despite the huge and beautiful villa in Leisureland.

Paul’s existence continues in a normal, plain flat, dating a single mum and working for a call centre. A normal life, which he could have done also in the “big world”. Everything changes when he goes to a party in his neighbour’s flat, takes drugs, gets drunk and passes out on the floor. The following morning he meets a famous Vietnamese activist, Gong Jiang (Hong Chau). After this encounter, Paul’s life takes an unexpected turn and he finally finds a reason for his transformation.

Despite the comedy-drama feature of the film, Downsizing is a story of change, optimism and future, all starting from that huge discovery in Norway. The idea that the world can be saved somehow is an important issue in everyday life, but this film takes it to whole new level. Miniaturizing people to reduce pollution and waste is something that maybe some have thought of but no one ever spoke out about it.

The two parts I liked most in the film are, firstly, the shrinking scene, which looks much like a dance between the nurses, the doctors and the patients; and, secondly, the sunset scene, where the camera zooms in on the faces of the people gazing towards the sun, because it is going to be the last time that they see it. The eyes fixed on something in the distance give the spectator the feeling of looking right into a future full of hope, despite the forthcoming apocalypse.

The only aspect I do not appreciate much is the fact that the experiment has been depicted in magical and funny ways, instead of being represented as something important and difficult for people take on. Maybe the psychological aspect of the transition could have been deepened. All the same, Downsizing is a heartwarming, optimistic film, with great actors and an interesting subject to discuss about: humanitarianism.

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