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pulse-2017Part of the pleasure of being given the opportunity to watch and review independent films for RunPee is finding films like Pulse. I’ll be honest, a fair few are not wonderful. Some are well done in certain ways and not so much in others; well shot but badly acted, good story but poor dialogue, and various combinations of them all.

And then there are films like Pulse; an intriguing story written and performed with real passion, integrity, and commitment.

Pulse is hard to categorize which, given the topic, is quite appropriate; definitely a family-based drama, but there are elements of sci-fi, fantasy, medical drama, comedy, and young adult fiction… the easiest way is to give you a description and let you make your own decision.

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Our protagonist is Oliver/Olly (Daniel Monks), a teenage, gay, disabled schoolboy; age isn’t specified and I’m not sure to what age they wear school uniforms in Australia, but I’d guess mid to late teens. Similarly Olly’s disability isn’t specified — but it is progressing due to osteoporosis — and he needs an operation to alleviate his symptoms.

He lives with his mum, Jacqui (Caroline Brazier), and her boyfriend Mark (Troy Rodger), and has a small group of friends: Luke (Scott Lee), Nat (Sian Ewers) and Britney (Isaro Kayitesi). Olly is in love with Luke. Unfortunately, Luke is in love with Nat.

Now add a dash of Science Fiction

Now comes the sci-fi/fantasy bit… a new operation arrived in Australia which allows you to transplant your personality into a different body; the question of where the donor bodies come from isn’t addressed beyond some people donate organs/others donate whole bodies, but that would be a question for another film.

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Got this back when I was pregnant, but I’ll be keeping it forever, it’s just so handy. I don’t go to the movie theater that often (even back before quarantine when you actually could…) but I make sure the app and the movie list are all current and updated, cause it’s so handy! It’s great for running late cause you can read their summary, obviously awesome for bathroom or snack breaks mid movie, and I also love that it tells you if there’s anything after the credits which is very handy.

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After having the painful and debilitating procedure to help with his disability, Olly decides to have the full body transplant and discusses it with his mother and friends. During the conversation, Olly says that he wants to get a female body — and also comes out as gay.

From then on, it is an exploration of how people react with the ‘new’ Olivia (Jaimee Peasley), and how Olivia interacts with other people. But the twist is that Olivia is a gorgeous young woman but has the mind of Olly, the disabled, gay man (this isn’t a spoiler; it’s the premise). This is shown by switching between Daniel Monks and Jaimee Peasley… trust me, it makes a lot more sense when you see it!

Pulse has so many threads running through it. Was Olly missing out on relationships because he was gay or disabled? How do his friends react to the changes? Does his mother cope? As a teenager can Olly/Olivia really mamage the consequences of his/her actions and behaviour under different gender conditions?

It does make you think of how you’d react in a similar situation.

The whole cast are excellent — but the stand out is Daniel Monks. Who better to play a disabled, gay young man than a disabled, gay young man? Daniel wrote, edited, produced, and starred in Pulse and also included old home movies of him getting treatment as a child.

If you get the chance, see Pulse. Recommended.

Movie Grade: A-

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2 responses to “Indie Movie Review – Pulse”

  1. What an interesting idea! Body swapping is an old movie trope, but this is a fresh take on it. And to be so inclusive as to have the gay teen be disabled (as you say, the writer/star is in real life) adds something different disabled people can relate to, even if in a fantasy way of waking up in a heathy body.

    I know this was done before in Avatar, of all things (not the gender swap part), with having an ‘avatar’ fully functional body. I recall Star Trek doing things like this a few times (the species The Trill achieve a variety of immortality via host-body swapping, for one example).

    I’ll have to give this one a watch. Although if it has a sad Flowers For Algernon ending I’ll be bummed. Since it’s an indie film that won awards, I hope the denouement is less predictable.

  2. Don’t worry about the ending is all I’ll say! There is a nice breach of the fourth wall at the end but it is definitely a feel good finish.

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