Trailer: Existential New Film ‘Bliss’ Asks, ‘What if Nothing We Know is Actually Real?’

Since the dread of COVID-19 has turned our lives into a daily game of Russian roulette, escapism has become our most treasured luxury (apart from that of just waking up alive every day). But what if none of what is going on around us is actually real?

That is what Owen Wilson’s character Greg is forced to confront in Amazon Prime Video’s mystifying new sci-fi/romance Bliss, by first time feature director Mike Cahill – the trailer for which is released today. Greg is a stress-ravaged divorcee who has just lost his job, but then meets the homeless Isabel (a particularly captivating Salma Hayek), who tries to convince her skeptical new companion that perhaps our grey, broken-down reality is merely an illusion.

“You see all these people outside?,” she asks him. “They’re not real. This is a simulation.” Greg then straps some sort of ungainly tubing onto his head, and “Zam!” – he’s transported, along with Isabel, to what seems an absolute paradise, which is apparently the…”real” world. But then a very official sounding voice is heard reciting, “Dr. Isabel Clemens pioneered brain box simulations. Ugly, simulated worlds, to generate appreciation for the real world.” And the plot thickens.

That “real” world is depicted as a sort of 6-star French Riviera, St-Tropez on happiness steroids. But back in the real/not-real world, Greg is seen anxiously apologizing to his daughter (played by Nesta Cooper) for missing her graduation. “It’s been a crazy few days,” he says, begging her forgiveness. “I graduated two weeks ago,” she counters.

Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson star in BLISS Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Amazon Studios

She then levies an ultimatum: “One of these days, you’re going to have to choose between these worlds.”

There’s something of Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf about the story, with Isabel as the enchanting Hermine leading Greg, substituting for Harry, cautiously on into the Magic Theater. But perhaps Bliss is also trying to make a statement about the precarious dance we do every day between our “real” reality and the virtual world that keeps pulling us deeper and deeper and deeper in.

“It’s amazing how easy humans can get used to even something spectacular,” Isabel observes. Or perhaps even a pretend version of it.

Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson star in BLISS Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Amazon Studios
Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson star in BLISS Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Amazon Studios

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