Cyberpunk Review » Cost of Living

June 2, 2006

Cost of Living

Movie Review By: sfam

Year: 2005

Directed by: Jonathan Joffe

Written by: Jonathan Joffe

Length: 11 Minutes

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Dying Man: William B. Davis
  • Sales Associate: Andrew Kirvanek
  • Rating: 8 out of 10

    Cost of Living Poster


    Overview: While at Balticon last weekend, I saw this wonderful cyberpunk short at the Balticon Film Festival. I still don’t know if it won or not, but Cost of Living was my second favorite (and only cyberpunk film) of the 12 mostly terrific short films shown (my favorite was a very emotional deep space scifi short film called Microgravity). Cost of Living has great production values, and goes with a light-gray/white dominating color scheme. Often, we find white in cyberpunk movies representing high-tech methods of dehumanization - Cost of Living definitely adheres to that convention.


    Cost of Living screen capture


    The Story: Cost of Living takes place in a near-future time where body replacement has become all the rage. Brains are removed from their human hosts and placed into a cyborg body. Cyborg body part companies now compete on features and price, and have a range of models available, not unlike a car dealership might. A dying man, played wonderfully by the X-Files smoking man, William Davis, comes into the showroom floor of the lowest priced cyborg dealer. After going through the models, he quickly lets the salesman (Andrew Kirvanek) know that price is his driving factor. After settling the low-priced base model (the Marathon Series), they discuss financing. In the end, the dying man doesn’t have enough money. The salesman then poses him the option of, in effect, working off the cost of the new body. In essence, the deal is he would become a slave of the corporation for the next 100 years, working 14 hours a day for 6 days a week. In the end, the choice becomes 100 years of slavery or death. The set-up is very well done, and Davis especially really sells the dilemma. What would you choose?


    Cost of Living screen capture


    The Bottom Line: The film maker, Jonathan Joffe, taglines this film short with the question, “How much would you pay to live forever?” In essence, this actually becomes an optimistic view of the future Joffe poses. Considering the cyborg body the dying man will be receiving is bottom of the line, one is left with the question, “Will the low-end body last more than 100 years, or does it magically expire at that time, forcing the dying man to get yet another 100 year term?” This short film really does capture the essence of cyberpunk in showing unchecked corporations holding sway over humanity itself. An inside joke, having the X-files’ William Davis - the Smoking Man - dying of cancer is just a terrific little bonus!

    While somewhat predictable, Cost of Living is wonderfully executed and well worth a watch. I don’t know where to point you to in order to see this short film - it doesn’t even have an IMDB film reference. I’m emailing Mr. Joffe about this - hopefully we’ll see him respond here (EDIT - Mr. Joffe responded - see the trailer in the comments).

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Short Film by SFAM.


    June 2, 2006

    SFAM said:

    “Made out of Meat” was another great film at the festival - I found it on YouTube:

    Mike said:

    A quick google gives as a homepage for the short, with the potential for a trailer, but they haven’t got one up yet…

    SFAM said:

    Hi Mike, yeah, that’s where I got the two shots from, as well as the email address to contact Mr. Joffe. Hopefully he responds here. It looks like some people are using as a place to post their shorts - this makes sense.

    Jonathan Joffe said:

    Thanks for the awesome review.

    Jonathan Joffe

    SFAM said:

    Hi Jon, thanks for stopping by. :)

    Jonathan Joffe sent me that image above, and also provided a trailer for Cost of Living. The trailer is about 1.4 MB, and has a lengthy blank black part at the beginning, but it certainly gives you a sense of the rhythm of the film.

    Jonathan also mentioned that he cannot post the movie on the internet yet, as this will kill any potential TV deal. Hopefully we can talk him into stopping by and advertising its TV appearance once he gets Cost of Living sold.

    Sinnyo said:

    I find myself genuinely excited by this! It’s a shame to hear the film is not yet confirmed for release as the delivery of the theme and even the effects shine out from that trailer. I thank you for the review and highlight though, Sfam. Best thing in my RSS feeds for a long time.

    June 13, 2006

    Neuromancer said:

    That looks really interesting.
    And it is great to have the maker comment here as well! Internet really makes the world smaller.

    July 11, 2006

    Voxbellin said:

    Great Review!

    I really loved this movie and I actually put it as my #1 choice. (I was also at Balticon - I was the little asian girl dressed up as Death)

    Do you know if it is possible to download this movie anywhere?


    PS: When Davis said that he was dying of cancer, do you think they were making a joke about the X-FIles where his character’s nickname was Cancerman?

    SFAM said:

    Hi Christine, welcome to cyberpunkreview :)

    In talking with the Director (Jonathan Joffe, who stopped by up above), he mentioned to me that film shorts don’t make a any money unless they get distribution deals prior to being posted on the internet. So until he gets a TV contract of some kind, we won’t see this online anywhere (at least I hope not, as it would suck for him to put in this amount of work and not get paid a dime).

    As for the cancer thing, my guess would be OF COURSE it’s an X-Files joke - one that I LOVED :)

    I actually chuckled out loud while watching this when Davis mentions this. Although, I’ve only remembered him being referred to as the “Smoking Man” in the X-files, it’s still pretty much the same thing, as most of us I’m sure had personal musings about when the smoking man was going to get cancer.

    September 6, 2007

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    November 14, 2011

    Nessman said:

    I emailed Joffe about this video two days ago, his reply is that after all this time the flim is posted on his facebook profile
    This link should work

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