Connect with us


Daniel Cockburn’s You Are Here is Compulsively Watchable and Utterly Unique

David Cockburn's You Are Here 2011 Film Review
Image: Pacific Northwest Pictures

10 Years Later: Revisiting You Are Here

Equal parts video essay, fragmented “thought experiment,” and social satire, Daniel Cockburn’s You Are Here is one of the most audacious English Canadian features to come down the pike in years. Imbued with enough dry wit and obscure observations to fill a dozen Charlie Kaufman treatments, the film dares to invent a cinematic language at least partially its very own in a scant 78 minutes.

Equal parts Library of Babel and errant-psychology portraiture (akin to the subjects of Errol Morris’s First Person), You Are Here contains few concrete characters – only a couple of figures recur. The film’s opening sequence is of a lecture – though it is never made clear if there is actually an audience present, besides the viewer(s) themselves. Projected behind the lecturer is a tranquil video of ocean waves overlapping each other. The lecturer proceeds to quiz the audience on how they are viewing the waves, then proceeds to use a laser pointer to highlight certain types of motion. Then, he implores the audience to do the impossible: develop an awareness of the red dot’s position…without consciously following it.

The scene works as the closest thing to a summation Cockburn’s film can easily support; it’s a series of interconnected impossibilities, carefully conceived by a set of obsessive figures, whether they manifest as a crowd – the film refers to most of its characters simply as “Alan” – or as individuals. A protagonist of sorts emerges midway through the film: the archivist, played by Tracy Wright in one of her last roles, a somewhat tragic figure who collects bizarre detritus and attempts to make it all fit into some grand configuration she has no actual concept of. It’s just one iteration of the man-as-machine depicted throughout the film in various forms, from the semi-computerized man described in a child’s elaborate fable to the social scientist who unknowingly invents a mind-debilitating linguistic experiment and then volunteers to be the first test subject.

Cockburn’s central concern seems to be of the dangers of a life too closely examined, as compared to those of a life not examined at all. The latter is manifested in a mathematically orchestrated sequence in which four “trackers” (perhaps better described as “human traffic controllers”) occupy a cluttered office one by one, then proceed to coordinate the direction and travel distance of any number of Alans through archaic cell phones. These people are the opposite of the archivist – directionless unless directed, and without clear occupation, they exist simply as other people’s busy work.

That’s enough information. You Are Here, for all its experimental flourishes, bizarre digressions, and total disregard for straightforward continuity, is never remotely boring, trafficking as it does in new ideas, obscure visual gags, and maddening logic puzzles throughout its compressed runtime. Utterly unique and totally engrossing, You Are Here deserves to find an audience of any kind, as it can easily inspire a small legion of new filmmakers with its no-budget marvels and clarity of vision.

Simon Howell

Now Streaming

Written By

Simon is a sometimes writer and podcaster living in Toronto.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



2001: A Space Odyssey 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: Clarke and Kubrick’s Odyssey of Discovery


The Best Movies of 1973 The Best Movies of 1973

The Golden Year of Movies: 1973



Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Is a Dazzling Web of Unbridled Creativity


The Zone of Interest The Zone of Interest

Cannes 2023: Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is a Manicured Vision of Hell


Jeanne Du Barry review Jeanne Du Barry review

Cannes 2023: Maïwenn’s Great Hair Goes to Great Lengths in Jeanne Du Barry


Asteroid City: A Gimmicky Vanity Project Asteroid City: A Gimmicky Vanity Project

Cannes 2023: Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City is a Gimmicky Vanity Project


Black Flies Gripping Black Flies Gripping

Cannes 2023: Black Flies— Gripping Descent into the Underbelly of New York’s Urban Misery 


Four Daughters Four Daughters

Cannes 2023: Four Daughters: A Family’s Journey From Goth to Niqab


La Passion de Dodin Bouffant: La Passion de Dodin Bouffant:

La Passion de Dodin Bouffant: Surfeit Cooking Drama Most Inane Film at Cannes


The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez

Jennifer Lopez’s The Mother is Eerily Similar to Enough, But That’s Not a Bad Thing


Godzilla 1998 Godzilla 1998

Godzilla at 25: When Hollywood Made a Manhattan Monster Movie, with Disastrous Results


Discovery channel Discovery channel

The Head-Scratching Moves Discovery Has Been Making


Starling Girl Starling Girl

The Starling Girl is a fine exploration of love, religion, and coming of age


The Matrix Reloaded The Matrix Reloaded

20 Years Later: The Matrix Reloaded was Underwhelming, but Still Underrated


Le Retour: Controversially Mediocre French Contender Director: Catherine Corsini Le Retour: Controversially Mediocre French Contender Director: Catherine Corsini

Cannes 2023: Le Retour is a Controversially Mediocre French Contender


Fast X Fast X

Fast X Finally Reaches the Franchise’s Breaking Point