Well here’s a high concept love story that’s never been seen before. How about a tale of love between a Middle Eastern woman and a Detroit man who can only communicate to her through a drone piloted from the other side of the world. That’s certainly out there. It raises so many questions, ideas, and feelings. Few are satisfyingly resolved, but it’s still always fascinating to watch director Kim Nguyen try to make this bizarre tale of love and acceptance work.
Joe Cole plays our protagonist. He’s burned out and recently heartbroken, hoping to love again by finding that the disposable Tinder experience doesn’t fill the hole he needs. His job is monitoring an oil pipeline on the other side of the world with a remotely controlled spider-shaped drone. Sometimes that means spotting people trying to siphon oil and shooting at them. Most of the time it means mindless monitoring a sea of nothing. On a particularly lonely day Cole spots a young woman in the dunes played by Lina El Arabi. He becomes entranced and starts using his shifts to follow her. He slowly pieces together her troubled life and desperate desire to escape her country. He falls for her and decides to help….through a drone. What could possibly go wrong?
Yep, that’s the actual plot and it’s fascinating to watch unfold. At times, it’s a deep rumination on the lack of connection in an endlessly digitally connected world. At times it’s a goofy look at the absurd world of drone pilots. At times it’s a sad exploration of the oppression of women in the extremist Muslim world. At times, it’s romantic. At times it’s silly. At times it works. Most of the time it doesn’t. While Kim Nguyen acknowledges the absurdity of his premise early on, the bulk of the film is achingly sincere despite the insane coincidences and unfortunate stereotypes required to tell this pseudo fairy tale. But after a while the movie becomes a slog and even laughable in the worst ways. Still, there’s something admirable about anyone making a movie this sincere out of a concept this insane, especially in Canada.
It’s nice that Eye On Juliet exists and deserves a look for the WTF factor. Whether or not that viewing will be remotely satisfying is another issue entirely.