Won’t somebody think of the children? This may be Helen Lovejoy’s catchphrase from The Simpsons but it could also be used to sum up the documentary, InRealLife. The film could have asked a series of timely and important questions about the Internet but instead it feels like heavy-handed and judgemental scare-mongering.
The film is written and directed by Beeban Kidron who is best known for her work in Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason. She is also no stranger to directing documentaries and making films about important social issues. InInRealLife she questions what affect the internet is having on young and vulnerable minds. She says she was prompted to make the film after seeing so many teens being constantly connected to electronic devices but really, in statements like this she comes across sounding like a prejudiced luddite.
Kidron interviews some English teenagers who are candid in what they reveal. One might also argue that they seem like more extreme cases, like a teenager who put herself in a situation where she was gang-raped in order to save the phone she had previously prostituted herself in order to get. There are also two 15 year old guys who are porn addicts that have difficulty maintaining real-life relationships (but at least they are perceptive enough to offer some interesting insights into this). There’s also a 19-year old who was kicked out of Oxford because he didn’t do his coursework after spending hours gaming (but this procrastination may have had nothing to do with technology).
InRealLife also tackles the issues of data privacy, storage and cyberbullying. Kidron also talks to the bereaved parents of a boy who committed suicide because of this. Among these personal stories, Kidron also presents interviews with academics and computer experts including Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales and Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame. These add an air of credibility to the documentary, but the Internet is such a vast and complex subject that in some cases the points they made are hardly new or revelatory. In other situations, too many points are tackled either at once or in quick succession, meaning the execution feels hollow as things barely scratch beyond the surface.
The documentary also features a muddled interlude with some YouTube stars including a pointless discussion with Tobuscus (Toby Joe Turner) . Some video montages of YouTube clips featuring some things that were previously viral hits also seem at odds with the rest of the story. At other points in the film, Kidron also uses shots of blinking servers and large clumps of cabling in stark and cold computer rooms and in tunnels below the ground and these are coupled with dark and ominous industrial sounds. This music is overbearing and this footage is used repeatedly and only adds to the finger-pointing feel of this conservative and patronising film.
InRealLife looked like it had an agenda from the outset and that was to shock people with its content and the factoids that are sprinkled throughout. But overall it feels in cohesive and like information overload with data that seems skewed towards the more negative aspects of the Internet. The film lacks focus and feels unbalanced and incomplete (very few positive views of the Internet are expressed and representatives from major technology firms declined to be interviewed). Ultimately, InRealLife may pose some valid and worthwhile questions about how the Web affects our society and culture, but if fails to provide a complete or informative insight into such a multi-faceted, important and complicated subject.
Originally published on 17 September 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/09/17/film-review-inreallife-uk-2013/
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