‘Guidance’ (2022) Review: Exploring the Intersection of Humanity, Technology, and Nature
Neysan Sobhani’s Guidance is a Chinese language movie, which explores the philosophical questions and themes of lies, betrayal, truth, and the business of good and evil. But what is different about this movie is that it doesn’t rely on common sci-fi tropes on spaceships, weapons and the depletion of the Earth’s resources. The story is set in the future and follows three characters entangled in a web of lies. To change things in their lives, they must open up their inner thoughts and secrets to each other. Guidance is not the everyday sci-fi movie most audiences would watch, it is an interesting concept that doesn’t rely on the usual themes in the genre.
A decade after The Great War, humanity slowly starts to rebuild itself. After a sonic bomb goes off at the museum, where Su Jie (Franchesco Chen), a tech billionaire, is being interviewed, Jia Sun (Han Maio) joins her childhood friend and former lover and hides in the bunker. Three months later, Jia Sun and her partner, Mai Zi Xuan (Harry Song) go away for a weekend retreat to the countryside to spend some quality time together. But Zi Xuan suspects that Jia Sun is hiding something from him. When he finds out that her secret is a pill containing a nanotechnology app called “Guidance” given to her by Su Jie, they begin to use it. Once the system is installed into their nervous system, Jia Sun and Zi Xuan test their relationship by asking questions about recent events. The “Guidance App” detects their ability to tell the truth or lie, but the couple tries to subvert the system before it ruins their relationship.
As an idea, Guidance looks at how science can explore someone’s heart and intentions, instead of space and its resources. At its core, the movie attempts to tell the story of the pursuit of truth, love, and connection. But it is more than that — the movie looks at what happens when the world gets into conflict and destroys itself in the process. To salvage it, apps and systems need to be replaced to make the world a better place. This is where the “Guidance App’ begins its story. Su Jie wants to correct the mistake of his father’s past and creates a nanotechnology pill that allows people to be better people. The idea is to stop people from lying, which would create less conflict and eliminate it together. In doing so, Sobhani explores another aspect of the movie, does the truth set someone free?
The director makes some bold choices with the themes, and it’s interesting where he goes to explore them. From a devastating war to a world where technology controls part of people’s lives and perceptions, these ideas tend to delve into much darker themes, too. The “Guidance App” claims to bring people together, and remove conflict from their lives by not allowing them to lie to others. But in reality, or at least in the movie, it is still a distorted and controlled world, where people are forced to convey their loyalty. It speaks in-depth about how much one person would do in the name of love, and the number of times people can be manipulated and their authority completely thrown away.
Guidance’s cinematography is beautifully shot by Saba Mazloum, who shows these three characters in intimate positions. All the characters are shot in closed spaces in two different aspect ratios, and some of the scenes almost look like portraiture. Their emotions are closely framed and even at times, the physical distance between the characters helps to communicate and strengthen their relationships, even if they are broken. None of the characters ever feels or looks like they are small — they are larger than life, exploding and imploding their emotions on the screen. Also, there is a sense of balance between the two settings. In the safe room, Su Jie and Jia Sun are surrounded by black walls and dim lighting, it almost looks like a painting, whereas, she and Zi Xuan are in a different aesthetic. Their setting is a futuristic home, with natural light and a lush green country that creates a balance in the movie. But the difference is how the Jia Sun behaves in these spaces, and whether the physical distances strengthen or weaken her relationships.
Sobhani’s feature creates thought-provoking ideas of the limits of technology and science and how people can trust their loved ones. The theories of the truth can only be set free depending on their destiny. By extension, destiny is brutal, and for the characters to interpret their inner turmoil might create more chaos than peace. Guidance is a bold idea that is unlike any other sci-fi movie ever seen before. However, it’s not just a science fiction movie, it is a movie that has a lot to say about the world and its future. The larger social problems of humankind can be interpreted in movies such as this, and Guidance might help viewers to create a reflection of themselves, or perceive the challenges of the future.