FOR FILMS IN CHARGE OF CHANGE
directed by David Sherbrook
“We have to do all that we can which keeps us sane” seems to be the motif of the short SCI-FI film Routine that focuses on insanity. The film places the internal struggle of an astronaut in the loneliest of places - space. Using science-fiction as a background for exploring the depths of human psychology, Routine proves to be a dynamic, well-balanced and compelling short.
Flight engineer Spencer is in command of an escape pod that is floating aimlessly through space. He has a dialogue with his crew about loneliness, perception, insanity and human connection. The setting is atemporal, although the action might as well be placed in the present time. However, regardless of the time frame, the short’s focus is on atemporal, universally-valid topics.
Routine’s balanced structure and dynamic transitions facilitate an exploration of human psychology and inspire meditation. The two-layered narrative offers a glimpse of the estranged and amplified reality of loneliness. Separated by an allegorical transition between sanity and insanity, the two-sided perspective depicts a familiar reality, while placing it in an unfamiliar environment.
The space travel, an occasion where one is completely alone and isolated from humanity, is the perfect means to explore the effects of loneliness and isolation on human mental sanity. Insanity, as portrayed in the film, is multilateral and depicted both as a consequence of loneliness and as a coping mechanism against loneliness and - strangely enough - insanity itself. Ultimately, Spencer’s involuntary strategy for surviving in this isolated, adverse environment is his insanity and routine.
Besides, Routine proves that science-fiction films have a lot of potential in terms of sensible and relevant issues for humanity, in general. Filmmaker David Sherbrook has succeeded in humanizing a genre that is often trivializing such aspects. His deep approach to this subject is admirable. Admirable are the handmade props as well. Even though the special effects makeup and general VFX could have used improvement, these low-budget related flaws can easily be overlooked thanks to the overwhelming atmosphere of poor lighting and distressing sounds.
In the end, Routine is an elegantly structured short that is impressive in the natural and harmonious blend of science-fiction and human psychology. The short abounds in metaphors that allude to the impression of sanity as a norm. In Routine, madness becomes the norm for surviving. Spencer’s words “Maybe striving for sanity is what got us into this place” perfectly sum up this short that manages to question widely-held ideas about mental health, science-fiction and being alone.