Weekend Herald - Canvas


- — Calum Henderson

(Netflix) How easy would it be, do you reckon, to just walk into a hospital and take home a patient with amnesia by convincing everybody you’re their spouse?

Never really considered it before, to be honest, but now it’s all I can think about. According to the latest objectivel­y-badbut-i-can’t-stop-watching-it Netflix thriller Secret Obsession, it’d be alarmingly easy.

The patient is a young woman called Jennifer (former Disney Channel star Brenda Song), who has wound up in hospital with a textbook case of “hit by a car while fleeing deranged knifeman” in the movie’s intense opening scene.

Russell (Mike Vogel), a man who bears a distractin­g resemblanc­e to German football coach Jurgen Klopp, shows up not long after. You just assume he’s her husband because he’s fiddling with a cigarette lighter engraved with both their names. Show, don’t tell — rule number one of both film-making and hospital amnesia scamming.

“Hey Jen,” he says gently, stroking her head bandage with the back of his index finger. “I just want you to know that I’m here and I’m not going to leave no matter what, Okay?”

Okay. At this point you’re kind of thinking: I know he’s probably not her real husband, but terrifying scam aside, is this actually kind of hot? I wish somebody would assure me they were never going to leave no matter what, you know?

Jennifer wakes up to the perfect hubby showing her photos from their wedding. “You don’t remember me, do you?” he asks, lifting the refrain from Hot Chocolate’s It Started With a Kiss wordfor-word. She’s definitely got amnesia, otherwise she’d be laughing her head off.

As he takes Jennifer back to his sparsely-decorated rustic mansion in the woods, Russell’s many red flags soon begin to flutter. So do the suspicions that this movie may have been written entirely by some kind of AI screenwrit­ing algorithm.

No disrespect to “Peter Sullivan”, the credited writer and director (whose previous movie credits include the promisingl­y-titled The Dog Who Saved Halloween), but I think it’s obvious that a computer actually wrote this movie based on the viewing data of millions of Netflix users.

This algorithm is getting pretty good. It knows we’re all looking at our phones the whole time, for example, so when Jennifer finds a pivotal clue on Russell’s computer she has to say “what is that, that’s weird” out loud, like a video game prompt, even though she’s alone in the room.

It’s come up with a plot so inanely predictabl­e that it’s almost unpredicta­ble. When was the last time you saw a thriller so completely free of twists?

If this is the future of entertainm­ent, then I kind of love it. Not because it’s good, but because it absolves me of my own bad taste.

Why’d I give up on the critically­acclaimed Philomena halfway through, but sit glued to Secret Obsession’s stupid storyline from start to finish?

Maybe it’s not my fault. Can’t help it, I’m a slave to the algorithm.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand