Slater (Lachlan Nieboer) is happy with the love of his life, and cannot see how things could be better, though alternatively he doesn't realise how things could be worse. Today is his birthday and he goes home to the house he shares with Nadia (Nora-Jane Noone) where she has arranged a surprise for him: a selection of jars and candles hanging in the hallway, a romantic gesture she insists on capturing in photographic form with her instant camera. However, on her way home she was being tracked by security cameras for someone has been watching her, and after the couple have gone to bed the reason becomes clear when there is a hammering at the front door...
That unshakeable feeling, that modern malaise that there is something better you are missing out on, that not only is the other person's grass greener but your quality of life is suffering as a result, was an undercurrent throughout Brand New-U, a science fiction romance and the first fictional feature from director Simon Pummell. His previous feature had been the "all of human life is here" patchwork documentary Bodysong, but while this was not exactly of a piece with that, it did speak to a preoccupation with the films of the nineteen-sixties, especially the sci-fi like Seconds or Je t'aime Je t'aime which obsessed over their protagonists' identities, worrying at them until they became lost in the passing of time.
Not to mention the visual aesthetic of what Pummell achieved, an impeccably designed parallel universe of sorts that could have been Alphaville or the society of François Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, assuredly European in style as befitting the film's source. Of course, there's a snag with that careful attention to the surface detail, and this is a sense of remoteness with regards the plotline, which with so little to latch onto made it difficult to work out precisely why all this was happening to the hapless Slater until far too far into the running time. What we do know is that Nadia has been kidnapped, though not before she brained an assailant with a heavy object, but when Slater is abandoned he discovers the dead body looks identical to his now-missing partner.
Turning detective, he finds a clue thanks to a mysterious phone call instructing him to investigate a mysterious corporation known as, you guessed it, Brand New-U. Our hero pays them a visit and before he knows what is going on he has been signed up for their allocation programme, which will be handy since he is wanted for the death of Nadia, but if she isn't actually dead, whose was the body in the apartment? This is where it starts growing murky, or murkier, as Slater gets a new persona and in a curiously cosmic display he is now in a whole new life, yet he is still yearning for Nadia, and despite being ordered to keep nothing from his past, he still hangs onto the snap Nadia took of them together on the stairs of the home they shared.
There comes a point in this where you may well be advising the protagonist, it's nice that you carry a torch for this girl, but surely you can see by clinging on to her memory to the extent you're going to hunt her down in this new life isn't doing anyone any good. Yet that feeling of entitlement, especially one which comes after a possible perfect future was snatched away, pervades the Slater character, which coupled with the emotionally cold presentation makes him a difficult man to warm to (as does the frequent, self-conscious swearing which jars with the pristine imagery). He can't say he wasn't warned, but as the narrative draws on and he is menaced by the corporation's goons (including Tony Way who gets a nice bit recreating Taxi Driver's gun salesman scene) he behaves in a manner that only makes sense in science fiction to keep events rolling along. No matter how much you love someone, being prepared to murder an innocent person to get them back would be a step too far for most reasonable folks, and Pummell doesn't quite convince us here. Music by Roger Goula Sarda.
Before directing films, Pummell line produced over 40 commercials combining live action and animation. He went on to create award winning animations and films for Channel 4, with many international retrospectives of his work.
Pummell created two short films for the feature film that accompanied Freddie Mercury's final album - Queen's 'Made in Heaven', however it wasn't until Bodysong that he directed his first major feature film.
His second feature film, some time later, was science fiction romance Brand New-U, which opened at the Edinburgh Film Festival.