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TIFF 2021: “Encounter”


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

There are dozens of reasons for mental illness – life experience, genes or family history, heavy medication, and brain injury to mention a few. Some don’t take seriously those who go through mental challenges, illnesses or undiagnosed psychiatric conditions. But what if some of them are not really crazy and whatever they have to say makes total sense?

 “Encounter” follows a decorated marine, Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed), someone who is trained to identify risks and threats. Malik believes that there are aliens in the form of bugs that take over human minds through their bite. He could not convince anyone and stopped trying altogether. But he has two sons he prioritizes. Because their mother is already infected, the man takes his children and hits the road towards a fully functional military base where the great minds work on a cure.

Written with Joe Barton, filmmaker Michael Pearce’s offers an impressive character-driven drama, focusing on Malik as a man who should do everything to protect his family. However, we quickly realize something is off with him. But it makes sense what he says because we believe our own eyes too. However, as the story unfolds, nothing appears so simple anymore, and soon, it indeed will turn into a survival mission, but on a whole different level.

What I personally liked about the film is its approach and beautiful ending. Not because you need to be prepared for a satisfactory outcome, because it may vary from person to person. However, you will realize at some point where the story leads and will begin to sympathize with Malik, his determination and vulnerability and the realization that there is more to the story. And that bugs are aliens may be the least of his problems as there is something else he needs to focus on more – his mental health, which is clearly off track.

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