Movie Review: Topside
Whilst not the wisest or most socially acceptable idea I’ve had, I’ve always wanted to live in relative seclusion. Not as a hermit, I’d need the amenities that come with being on the grid. You know, internet, electricity, the ability to be rather callous on Twitter, all important stuff. I could, however, live a reclusive lifestyle. I already do, last year I skipped going to the pub on Boxing Day so I could watch Ratatouille and eat two Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. Time well spent. Topside, however, looks at the grim realities living off of the grid will bring. Not out of choice, though, the homeless heroes at the heart of this piece from directing pair Logan George and Celine Held are far from lapping up the lifestyle of idyllic seclusion.
Instead, we’re presented two characters who have nowhere to go, and nothing to show for where they have been. After a police raid and eviction removes them from the subway, we find ourselves tagging along with protagonists who face a harsh winter on the streets. They desperately search for a new home, but, as the harsh and cold direction of George and Held show, there are few available. Initially, it seems that they were happy in their life underground, but I assume to a degree, Topside wants to showcase that this isn’t an ideal way to live. Nor is it a choice, this is a series of events that transpire due to a lack of help or care from those above on the social ladder. Neither is shown particularly clearly, with George and Held’s message lost to a ramshackle succession of loud noises, character studies and furious attempts to bring some sort of artistic vision to their work.
They manage rather well, their form of work starts to take shape rather rapidly throughout this one, blending the isolation these characters have become used to with the new, fascinating, and frightening world they find themselves in. The hustle and bustle of a busy New York street is shown not as an everyday element, but a force to be reckoned with. One to be scared of, to respect in admission of horror. The manic panic that ensues in our initial rise to the surface is marvellous, and we get a tremendous feel for not just the sounds of the city, but the horror it causes our leading characters.
As much a story of survival as it is a rumination on what a home really is. Constantly questioning just what we consider a place to grow and love, either alone or together, is constantly up for debate. The amenities found in the underground are similar to those on the surface, the iPads, conversations, and loose lifestyle of those around, but the freedom that comes with living away or against societal convention is something Topside analyses with surprising depth. When we’re conditioned to a routine, it’s surprising, scary, and overwhelming when we’re shunted out of it, not by choice, but by the actions of others. Topside captures that feeling of fear extremely well.