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Review: Coma (2022)

Review: Coma (2022)

The most disheartening aspect of life in Pandemica was the unified compliance of the arts community–-Rage Against the Machine requiring fans to wear masks and hand over their vaxx cards so they could scream along to, “Fuck you! I won’t do what you tell me,” as the story goes. But, if Bertrand Bonello’s 2022 film Coma is any indication, the contrarian views and subversive instincts that have kept France the center of the cinematic world made it through intact. Shot in his home and employing every loophole in the COVID restriction handbook, Bonello has crafted a revealing study of the adolescent psyche in a time of utter state control.

What separates Coma from the wave of intolerable lockdown romances and melodramas released during the last three years is Bonello’s dedication to isolating the totalitarian strains in society that made the whole thing possible. Coma never mentions COVID. It’s far more concerned with capturing a form of stagnancy that predated 2020. 

As “The Adolescent,” Louise Labèque lounges around her room in self-isolation from her parents. She gabs with the girls on Zoom about her favorite serial killers. She makes a stop-motion sitcom with her Barbies that allows her to flirt with adult taboos like sex and Trumpian politics. She dreams about a misty forest straight from the original Brothers Grimm. Most importantly, she pledges fealty to Patricia Coma (Julia Faure), a celebrity influencer who demonstrates high-end blenders, sells decision-maker toys that resemble the Simon, and makes government mandates go down easy no matter how authoritarian in nature. 

For Bonello, the true pandemic is one of detachment and desensitization that’s been in the making for decades. Virus or not, The Adolescent never really had a future–one of the reasons she revels so much in violence via social media. 

When Bonello’s masterful new film, The Beast, opened in April, it proved the ultimate treatise on free will in the age of A.I. But there’s a reason it took Coma two years to find a distributor: it claims we’ve been the beasts all along–willfully refusing to hold ourselves accountable for the public and private worlds our compliance has unraveled.

Coma screens today at The Belcourt.