Connect with us

Film

Fantastic Fest 2017: ‘Firstborn’ Meditates On Weakness, Fear, And Starting A Family

Unlikable protagonists are a vital and often helpfully sympathetic tool in modern storytelling. They provide fresh perspectives and spur inventive writing — and they are also a huge liability if they alienate an audience. In Firstborn, director Aik Karapetian orchestrates a nerve-wracking balance between the intrigue of his beautifully strange film and the narcissism and cowardice of his central character, Francis (Kaspars Znotins), and succeeds in crafting a queasy portrait of a loveless couple trapped in marriage.

When the film opens, Katrina (Maija Doveika) and Francis nourish a husk of their former relationship. At a house party, Katrina drunkenly jokes about adultery as Francis quietly absorbs it. On their walk home, the two are accosted by a young, handsome biker who punches Francis, sexually threatens Katrina, then walks away with her purse. They are obviously rattled, but more importantly, Francis’ pride is deeply hurt, and he spends the next few days being possessive and paranoid about Katrina’s interactions with other men.

Fearing that someone else may ultimately be able to help Katrina seek justice, Francis takes matters into his own hands. He finds the culprit (Dainis Grube) and, in the middle of the woods, with nobody else around, attempts to compel him to apologize to his wife by offering him the money in his wallet. This obviously doesn’t work, and the issue quickly escalates. The confrontation changes Francis, but not that much, and he and Katrina continue to have problems even though they find themselves bound tighter together by a pregnancy.

An undercurrent of humor runs through Firstborn, but it runs very deep. The filmmakers seem entirely aware of Francis’ more weaselly qualities and use them to great effect, but the mood is generally somber, understated, and claustrophobic. Karapetian focuses his attention on quiet, interstitial moments, and he consistently underplays big plot points to maintain focus on the anxiety and dread that begins to consume his characters.

Shot in bright, cool tones with a shallow focus, Firstborn sports a gorgeous and refined aesthetic. Location and set dressing are inventive, memorable, and slightly left of realism — as in the couple’s straight-up haunted nursery decor, or the attacker’s lair of industrial ruin in the forest. Much of the storytelling is visual, shot through with the dissonant drone of strings; Karapetian’s clearly aims to drown his characters in atmosphere.

Two scenes depict a family (who are friends of the couple) with painted faces and Japanese garb, playacting scenes of heroic battle. The contrast with Francis’ anti-heroic qualities is clear and welcome, but his character still poses a problem. One might want for a central character to succeed, or to be redeemed, but Francis’ motivations throughout seem so narrow and selfish that he is difficult to root for. In the end, Firstborn addresses that intelligently (and satisfyingly), but its vision of humanity skews very nihilistic. In that, mileage will vary, but appreciate its construction, get lost in its desolate atmosphere, and that nihilism goes down kind of easy.

Fantastic Fest runs September 21st – 28th. Visit the festival’s official website.

Written By

Emmet Duff is a small town Ohioan living in Austin, TX. When he's not writing about film, he cares for plants, takes pictures, and goes exploring.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

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

Facebook

Trending

Who Is Lainey Wilson Currently Dating? Discover Her Current Relationship Status!

Celebrity

Zayn Malik Shares Rare Insight Into Life Away From Spotlight With His Daughter Khai

Celebrity

Bill Maher Net Worth 2024: What Is The Comedian & TV Host Worth?

Lifestyle

Jake Paul Girlfriend: Get to Know the Woman in His Life Right Now!

Celebrity

Olivia Dunne Slams Tiktok With ‘shadow Ban’ Claim After Major Drop-Off In Viewers

Celebrity

Vontae Davis Cause of Death Revealed by 911 Call: What Killed Former NFL star?

Celebrity

British Hunk Formally Offered Role Of James Bond And Will Sign Contract This Week’ To Take Over From Daniel Craig

Culture

8 Norwegian Cruise Passengers Were Left Stranded. What If It Was YOU?

Lifestyle

Who Was Alex Bullard? The Unresolved Questions Behind His Death!

Celebrity

Susan Wojcicki Net Worth 2024: What Is The Former CEO Of YouTube Worth?

Lifestyle

Who Are Renee Rapp’s Parents? The Untold Story of Renee Rapp’s Parents!

Celebrity

Who Is Shawn Mendes Dating Now? The Truth His Current Relationship Revealed!

Celebrity

Aspyn Ovard Files for Divorce from Parker Ferris: Why is Couple Splitting after Birth of 3rd Child?

Celebrity

Former Adult Star Jenna Jameson Shares Update Revealing Body Transformation After Being Left Unable To Walk

Culture

Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez Officially Divorced: What Went Wrong?

Culture

Who is Vanessa Hudgens Husband: All you Need to Know About American Actress Love Life!

Celebrity

Connect