I have a soft spot in my heart for small-budget, indie-type science fiction movies. A couple of times, I found them to be extremely engrossing and thought-provoking despite not having the production advantages of a big-budget blockbuster (best example: the time-travel movie Primer, which was only made for $2,000). Every year, there’s at least one of such movies, and I try to seek as many as I can. And this 2017, The White King is my first prospect.
Set in a near future (or an alternate present), The White King is a coming-of-age drama about Djata (Lorenzo Allchurch), a 12-year-old boy growing up in “Homeland”, a totalitarian dystopian nation isolated from the rest of the world (kind of like North Korea?). After his father (Ross Partridge) is labeled a traitor and taken away by two government agents, his mother (Agyness Deyn) seeks to prevent him from being brainwashed by the system.
An interesting premise, isn’t it? Unfortunately, The White King didn’t turn out being the great small-production science fiction film I was hoping for. It starts off intriguing, with some fascinating and unsettling setups, and some decent acting and direction. But it flutters in time. The story doesn’t go anywhere satisfying, but rather, gradually loses the sense of intrigue as it progresses. The thing with this kind of small movies – especially those with gray-toned dystopian elements – is it’s vulnerable of becoming dull and dragging; thus, it’s imperative for such movie to sustain a high level of engaging storytelling. This movie isn’t able to do that.
However, it didn’t arrive at a point where it got too boring for me to watch. It kept its narrative afloat amidst its plot’s unraveling mediocrity. I thought that a huge, sensible final act could save the movie from being underwhelming. Thus, I was hoping that the seemingly mundane plot development is building up to a mindblowing payoff. But that didn’t happen.
Hence, though not quite a dud, The White King is more of a fruitless watch.