A truly unique and philosophical piece of cinema that could soon enough be compared to films such as Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind – which it has already been drawing comparisons to, OXV: The Manual is a film about fate, and if there is such a thing as free will, or if our lives have already been determined by mother nature, and ultimately if it even really matters.
The film, which has elements of romance, fantasy and science-fiction is about a world full of people who are judged by their frequency levels. The balance of the universe begins to tip when Zak, a young boy with a particularly low frequency level makes it his mission to talk to Marie, a young girl with a frequency so high she’s emotionless, going through life pretending to smile, to cry, to care. Zak is the wrong-place, wrong-time sort of boy, where Marie is the girl whose stars align at every moment in her life, even as simple as always catching the train on time. The problem is these two would be lovers in any normal romantic comedy film just aren’t meant to be and Zak only gets 1 minute a year with Marie before the universe intervenes, usually attempting to/causing harm to Zak. All grown up and Zak (Daniel Fraser) seems to have fixed the problem, with the help of his friend Theo (Owen Pugh), and he’s able to spend more than just a minute with Marie (Eleanor Wyld). All isn’t as it seems however and Zak and Marie soon come to realise the dark truth about Zak’s discovery, which may reveal the very secrets of the universe itself.
The film is highly intellectual and this is both its strength and undoing. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the film and a second watch is almost certainly needed to unravel some of the films more hidden philosophical themes. The film struts along at a steady pace and while it never meanders, it could have done with a bit more whimsical romance that this sort of film was screaming out for. The romance side is attempted, but unlike its counterpart Eternal Sunshine, it fails to really capture our hearts but while it drops the ball here it stays strong in its message about the universe and the way fate drives our lives and, to some extent, our existence – mostly through Zak and his desires to change the way that he’s been programmed.
OXV: The Manual is a shinning example of the great work the Fantasia Film Festival does to bring fun and unique films like this to our attention. While this is my first year covering the Festival, I’ll be sure to stick with it for many years to come.
Rating: OXV: The Manual is a difficult, sometimes hard to follow but near heart-warming film that is going to gain quite a reputation in the years to come (6/10).