Synopsis: When her mother dies, lonely girl Leila will have to learn how to manage to live on her own. But Leila has a digital avatar, Shadowfax, and when she logs onto the virtual reality game, Azana, she feels truly alive. It’s there that she meets the mysterious Mania, and discovers the secret paradise, Red Pill. But Adrian, the leader of Red Pill, tells her she has to be invited to join and blasts Shadowfax out of the game. The next day, at Leila’s work, Mania turns up – in real life. Leila wants to know why…
Review: This was an intriguing opener that sustained my interest. Tallulah Haddon gives a great performance as the everygirl Leila whilst conveying her intelligence as well. Simona Brown acted brilliantly as Tess, providing an interesting counterpart to Haddon‘s main character. There was some great realism in this first installment when Tess spoke to her mother’s ashes and when George Jovanovic‘s Calumny was revealed to live with a violent father.
A sweeter moment was when Leila watches a video of her mother on her phone and her mother’s words of encouragement to her daughter. The camera work in this episode was stupendous, with reality seeming strange and unrealistic through the lighting employed.
There was a nice juxtaposition of the safety and danger of being online, from the cheery banter that Leila exchanges with another user to the creepy webcam shots of Leila undressing in real life. The conversation that took place when Leila meets the Red Pill clique felt very true to how teenagers would speak to each other. I especially liked the mid-close ups used in that scene which gave the impression that Leila was invading their privacy and they were invading hers. The isolation and confusion of adolescence is put forward very well by all of the actors, as well as the sweetness of the friendships that can form.
The musical score was absolutely phenomenal; ranging from dreamlike and surreal when Leila spies on Adrian and Calumny, to the theme used when Leila meets Tess in real life for the first time, to the idyllic score that accompanies Tess and Adrian’s initial conversation about Leila. While we don’t see him in person Matthew Beard does an excellent job of making Adrian seem benign yet threatening at the same time. Of special note is the line by George Jovanovic: “What you are hiding will come out”. The CGI is used effectively in this outing. I loved the gorgeous Coraline-esque ruined house where Adrian manipulates Calumny and I liked the crucified hero shot of Tess’s avatar underwater.
Overall, a good start to what looks to be an interesting series.
- Incidental Music10