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Screened as part of Spirit of Independence micro-budget film festival, Like avoids the pitfalls of the ‘found footage’ genre to comment on social media, performance and human relationships.

Like film spirit of independence film festival 2020

Like walks a difficult tightrope. The film is based on the real-life murder of a vulnerable woman by two teenage girls, and so risks being voyeuristic and exploitative. It is almost entirely shot through variations of Snapchat and Facebook Live, and so risks being another return to a genre—found footage—that has become predictable in recent years. And, for the same reason, it risks being another entry into the overstuffed field of films that ruminate meaningfully upon our relationship with social media.

All this could make it tiresome and shallow, but Like maintains its balance impressively. Its two leads, Rebecca McDiarmid and Brodie Young, give fearless, committed performances as Polly and Kelsey, young women turned nihilistic and cruel by an uncaring world, and by one another.

McDiarmid and Young’s characters are acting as much as they, the actors, are. They are constantly performing for their phone cameras, for their friends and carers, and for each other. Their shared obsession with the camera freshens Like’s found footage conceit, and its meditation on social media expands to cover the more emotionally complex ground of human relationships in general. As McDiarmid and Young show, both social media and our ‘real’ friendships can provide something vital at the same time as poisoning us.

The film’s sensitivity to the girls’ inner lives does not mean that Like seeks to excuse them. The murder, when it comes, is one of the most disturbing I’ve seen on film for some time, helped greatly by another strong performance from Fiona Whitelaw as their desperate victim.

For Kelsey and Polly, everything is an act and the world has given them no opportunity to explore other roles. But performance can harden into a callous reality, as Like ably and troublingly shows us.

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