Film Review | Never Happened (2015)

Film run-time: 7 minutes | Starring Aaron Abrams, Anna Hopkins, Mia Kirshner
Written and Directed by Mark Slutsky, Cinematography by Brendan Steacy, Edited by Matthew Hannam

Never Happened“, a 2015 short film by Mark Slutsky, is a speculation of a near-future where technology intersects with biology to the extent that it alters the essential nature of human beings. With the advent of such distortive possibilities, does a conventional morality still exist, or will a new social standard come to define the world? Grady, a married man, goes on a business trip with a colleague, Laura; when he returns, he recounts an excursion that differs from reality.

Twisting the trope of a workplace affair with a tantalizing low-fi premise, the film proposes a new dynamic of extramarital culpability, where a literal absence of knowledge can produce a blissful resolve to the consequences of desire. The technology, a smartphone application which enables the erasure of memories for a certain duration of time, functions nearly like a time machine, in that its users can effectively “skip” the mental events that precede immediately before the reset.

In a society that has embraced the use of such mind-altering apparatuses, a salient philosophical question may be found in the thought, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” In the context of a private sexual encounter that leaves no trace of its existence, will an actus reus result in emotional damage, when a greater part of infidelity impinges on a mens rea? Akin to a drunken impulse that dilutes reason and more specifically, knowledge of wrongdoing, complicity is challenged by this tool.

When reality is shrouded by substance or a willful mental aversion, does a genuine oblivion excuse a true chronology of events? Furthermore, in a framework where psychological ramifications nearly match or exceed the impact of physical actions, is there no detriment if a society has accustomed itself to an ubiquitous self-deception? Although constructed around the fantastical device of a memory wipe, “Never Happened” is an acute inquiry into the nature of basic human emotions, conundrums as old as humanity itself.

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