Strawberry Mansion Review: Charmingly mannered odyssey into the unconscious - SciFiNow

Strawberry Mansion Review: Charmingly mannered odyssey into the unconscious

In Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney’s surreal lo-fi sci-fi psychodrama, a dull bureaucrat finds the girl of his dreams and his own imaginative escapism.

STRAWBERRY MANSION (Bulldog Film Distribution) (04)

As he stays in the home of elderly, eccentric ‘atmosphere creator’ Bella (Penny Fuller) to audit her dreams, Preble (Kentucker Audley) finds himself sharing a room with Bella’s pet Sugar Baby. This tiny tortoise spends most of his time in a pink-lit terrarium, eating strawberries. If the terrarium is an obvious candidate for the titular ‘strawberry mansion’ of co-writer/co-directors Audley and Albert Birney’s fantasy feature, then so is the strawberry-pink room/womb in which Preble’s own dreams regularly take place, and where his anxieties are typically resolved by the comfort items which his providential Buddy (Linas Phillips) furnishes. Here, dreams and reality rapidly become confused, the metaphorical and the literal merge, and the fates of Preble and his testudinal roommate – each confined consumers longing for a freedom beyond their full comprehension – became irrationally intertwined

Set in 2035, in a corporatised world where even our inner lives and dreams are subject to taxation, Strawberry Mansion traces the improbable relationship between Preble, Bella, her much younger dream self (Grace Glowicki), and her estranged adult son Peter (Reed Birney). As Preble delves deeper into Bella’s recorded dreams, stretches the observer’s paradox to its outer limits and finds unexpected love, this dull, disconsolate drone also discovers his own imaginative side. His quest, in both waking and sleeping states, for romantic connection and oneiric escapism propels a surreal narrative in which even the most uninventive-seeming of men has hidden reserves of creativity as a protective shell against everyday oppression.

Unfolding in a peculiar retrofuture where technology seems glitchily outmoded, and where the hatted, suited Preble comes across no less as oldworld noir ‘tec than as tomorrow’s bureaucratic dream assessor, Strawberry Mansion is a charmingly mannered odyssey into the unconscious. For like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985), Nick Whitfield’s Skeletons (2010) and Tobias Nölle’s Aloys (2016), Audley and Birney’s film explores the high seas and ethereal heavens of the mind, where time, space and reality itself recombine to tell their own wonderfully whimsical truths.

Strawberry Mansion is in select cinemas and on demand 16 September from Bulldog Film Distribution. Read more reviews from SciFiNow here.