In the last few years we’ve seen several movies that attempt to delve into the tricky social politics of the emerging gig economy, but none have been as pointed in their messaging as Lapsis, an alternate present sci-fi feature written and directed by Noah Hutton.
After a breakthrough in quantum computing allows powerful machines to be affordable and in every home, there’s a sudden need for a new cabling infrastructure to handle this superfast throughput. This is where the profession of cablrs was born; they’re people who run these quantum cables from one node to another, working as independent contractors in a structure not dissimilar to what we see today with Uber or any other gig-economy-style job.
After his brother’s treatment for a mysterious illness known as onmia has failed, Ray (Dean Imperial) decides to become a cablr in order to make enough money to send him to a facility and hopefully to find a cure.
In order to fastrack his “medallion,” which authorizes him to work as a cablr, he contacts an associate who procures it through some possibly illegal channels; but before he knows it he’s out in the Allegany State Park running this cable.
As Ray, who is given the hilarious trail name “Lapsis Beeftech,” meets people along the way, he begins to discover the strange, sometimes sinister inner workings of how this job operates and must grapple with the subject of worker mistreatment while competing with the ever-increasing amount of automated cable robots who are jockeying for his new vocation.
Imperial shines as Ray, a gruff yet empathetic old-school type of guy from Queens, NY, who has an uncanny resemblance to James Gandolfini. His unfaltering love for his brother and charming technological ineptitude make him an undeniably endearing character, adding an incredible amount of depth to an already narratively rich story.
Lapsis is the perfect type of science fiction, which draws unmistakable parallels to our current society and nudges it ever so slightly beyond where we are now but cautiously predicts where we could go if trends continue. It’s a striking critique of the gig economy but framed in a fun, intriguing, lo-fi adventure. I never knew where things were heading, and while there was a brief lull in the third act, it was never enough to disengage me.
With its natural, believable script and meticulous yet subtle world-building, Lapsis is not an indie sci-fi flick to sleep on, and I’m hoping it foreshadows, not the future of the gig economy, but what creative endeavors Noah Hutton has in store for us next.
Lapsis is screening at the 2020 Fantasia Festival.