Karen Gillan must fight her doppelganger to the death

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | June 30, 2022

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3 out of 5

One of my favourite American filmmakers working today is Riley Sterns. I like his movies for the same reason he’s unlikely to break into the mainstream: his droll, deadpan sense of humour is an acquired taste; and his characters are unlikeable, and only discover their will to live when their shallow and pointless existence is threatened.

The madcap absurdity of Sterns’ The Art of Self-Defense remains at centre stage, only this time paired with a dollop of lo-fi dystopia. In the near future, people diagnosed with a terminal illness can clone themselves so their loved ones don’t suffer as much with their absence. Should the person make a miraculous recovery, the original and clone must fight to the death — televised, of course.

Sarah (Karen Gillan, a nimble actor better known for wearing short shorts in Jumanji) finds herself in this predicament. To her horror, her double is much better at relationships and develops a superior rapport with her blah boyfriend and needy mother. Sarah plans to go down swinging, so she hires a budget personal trainer (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad) to get ready for battle. Meanwhile, the clone comes to realize Sarah’s boyfriend and mom are terrible people to be stuck with for decades to come.

Doppelganger movies are a dime a dozen, and Dual doesn’t break any new ground. But it does point out the ludicrousness of coveting someone else’s life. It also underlines that individuals, by and large, are irrelevant and easily replaceable — the antithesis of what Pixar movies have taught us.

I won’t give Dual a free pass because it doesn’t develop the ideas it introduces well enough. But if your faith in humankind has taken a beating in the last few weeks, some dyspeptic laughs at the expense of the human condition might feel just right.