99 [Stephen Kilkie, UK, 2018]
Two friends, Jen and Becky, stroll down a quiet street casually interacting with their respective smartphones, and arrange plans with friends in a mutual chat group. Their conversation swiftly turns to social media, Jen complimenting Becky on a recent photo she had posted. Becky seems particularly aggrieved that her post only received 99 ‘likes’ and more pointedly irritated because Jen hasn’t liked the picture, which would bump the amount of likes up to the consecutive triple-figure. Becky keeps the source of her grievance contained, but her mood has clearly taken on a more morose aspect, which Jen is attuned to but oblivious to the precise reason.
The girls finalise their previously discussed arrangements and part ways. The camera follows Becky and in the distance we hear the screeching of wheels and a thud. Realising her friend has been hurt, she runs back to her aid. Straddled across the pavement and road, Jen is conscious but unable to speak but manages to mouth instructions for her friend to call an ambulance. In the midst of doing so Becky has a change of heart, prompted to inaction by a sudden reminder that her friend hadn’t liked her photo.
At just two and a half minutes long, 99 is a sketch of an idea and, if meant to hint at any humour at all, is very black in its method. There is an air of cynicism in the way the film presents its indictment of a culture which apparently equates self-worth to digitally quantified validation. But the film’s psychopathic denouement is rather blunt and too emotionally adrift from its premise to elicit even ironic mirth, and in its brevity leaves us no scope for moral reflection.