review by Emma Dark
I recently had the pleasure of attending the 27th Made in Prague Festival at London, England’s BFI IMAX to watch a special gala screening of Czech near future sci-fi/thriller Restore Point (2023). Thanks to Without Your Head’s Owner/Editor, and friend, Neal Jones for asking if I could attend and represent his media outlet at this screening. I don’t often write reviews, but as a filmmaker myself – the very root of that being a fan of cinema – I’m always interested in seeing what new and exciting pictures are emerging from other filmmakers, particularly when they fit into the horror or sci-fi genres. Expect some trivia peppered throughout this article as the screening also included a Q&A with director Robert Hloz and actor Andrea Mohylová.
Restore Point is set in central Europe in the year 2041 and follows detective Em Trochinowska (Andrea Mohylová) as she investigates a murder case that will take her down a rabbit hole of mystery, espionage and corporate terrorism. In Em’s world, those who have died can be ‘restored’, as long as they’ve backed up the contents of their mind no longer than 48 hours ago. Where a murder victim has not backed up in the set timeframe, and therefore cannot be restored, a murder is considered ‘absolute’ murder, and that’s what happens in this case, triggering an intense investigation.
According to Restore Point director Robert Hloz, this is the first time we’ve seen a Czech-produced/directed sci-fi from the Czech Republic in approximately 60 years, and the film itself took 9 years to complete, so I imagine expectations for the film to do well are set pretty high.
In my opinion, the film doesn’t fail to deliver, and I would go so far as to say that it’s a direct contender in terms of production values with current offerings from North America and beyond, despite having had a significantly smaller budget at approximately 2 million dollars. Inspirations appeared to possibly touch on Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner (1982) and other Hollywood endeavors such as Schwarzenegger sci-fi/action The 6th Day (2000) – probably the closest in plot and general theme, Demolition Man (1993) and Ghost in the Shell (2017), to the higher brow arthouse works of Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, such as Solaris (1972) and Stalker (1979), plus Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). Not to forget the story of Dr Frankenstein and his monster which surely must be at the heart of any resurrection plot involving technology – with at least one scene in the film that appears to play homage to that. Certainly, these are the reference points that come to mind thematically, visually, or indeed musically to me.
With the Czech Republic once being part of the Soviet Eastern Bloc it’s not surprising to find a flavor of the visuals Andrei Tarkovsky is known for in the film. A focus on nature and memory also provides a direct reference point for comparisons to be made. We see beautiful and grand cityscapes contrasted with abandoned countryside throughout the film, which is set in winter and has a cold feel throughout. I believe the director, DOP, and production designer spent 3 years scouting the locations for the film, so it’s no wonder that are as effective as they are on camera. The film is beautifully shot and graded with plenty of wide shots to help immerse you in the lead character Em’s world. Of course, there are plenty of visual effects and CGI extensions to buildings for example, but the VFX are so high-end and so very well done that it feels completely natural.
As Restore Point is a near future sci-fi, set only 18 years from now, meaning that any technology we see on screen could potentially be at least within the realms of possibly as we currently see it. We see older-style cars with added self-drive functionality and futuristic headlights. There are various gadgets that while being technically far more advanced keep a root in existing technology and hardware, providing a midway point between now and tomorrow. We see some slightly more ‘out there’ technology, in one case a mute man who speaks through text on his teeth of all things – visible in the trailer if you want to check that out. Although restoration technology bringing someone back to life is possibly the most far-reaching science in the film it’s the central focus of the plot. We just don’t know what the future holds but I’m sure if people can they will choose to cheat death at some point. The story raises another issue, if somebody could kill another person to erase a memory and it were then possible to bring that person back to life with that memory erased it could lead to a web of criminal activity. Where does the line get drawn?
Part police procedural drama as well as the usual action elements of this type of sci-fi the plot leaves a lot of room for character development and allows the actors involved to get their teeth into their roles. Each actor was completely believable in their part and lead actor Andrea Mohylová in particular was extremely natural and relatable as a viewer. I believe this was her breakout feature film role and was shot while Andrea also had a 4-month-old baby to look after due to the extended development phase of the film and then a quick move to production. So well done Andrea and I do hope you go on to star in many more features.
After the screening and Q&A, I had the pleasure of chatting briefly with the director Robert Hloz, festival programmer Renata Clark, and the BFI’s Madeleine Mullet who chaired the Q&A at the BFI’s bar. All lovely people who are so passionate about film. And thank you to my photographer friend David Kittos who accompanied me to the screening and captured some images for this article.
Restore Point is a classy, intelligent, beautifully shot film that manages to play on familiar themes whilst still offering something fresh. It’s sure to have a wide appeal to both sci-fi fans and those who love art film, like myself. I’m sure this won’t be the director’s last feature, I imagine him being snapped up by Hollywood soon and indeed Restore Point I’m sure is destined for great things too. If you get to watch the film please do and I do hope we see a lot more genre offerings from the Czech Republic in the future.
My rating for Restore Point is a solid 4 out of 5.
EMMA DARK is an award-winning filmmaker, and actress. Find out more: