Dark Matter

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© 2018 by Dark Matter Media LLC

 
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Logline: A risk-taking geneticist must retrieve his murdered wife’s memories from her clone – before the murderer kills her again.

Dark Matter Review

 

Overall Impression:

Cellular Memory is a character-driven murder mystery with a heart of sci-fi.  Replete with distinctive characters, a tight plot, exemplary story structure and oodles of sexual and emotional tension: there is just so much right with this script.  A touch of Ex Machina, a hint of Children of Men, but always true to its unique vision.  This little gem is eminently producible.

What We Found Most Effective:

 

Cellular Memory does so many of the little things right: pacing, structure, plot, an abundance of obstacles and a great ending.  But, above all else, the script boils down to an examination of one relationship, between the two primary characters.  The focused energy on a relatable emotional through-line allows the audience to care, deeply, about resolving the driving tension in the relationship.

On a practical note, the script has very few settings - a lab, some corporate offices, a beach house - and a small cast.  These factors lend themselves to an easy to produce, relatively low budget film, but without sacrificing the story.

What We Found Least Effective

The link of emotional/physical feelings shared by Sharon/Karen is the weakest components of the script.  We kept thinking of the Corsican Brothers (not the Alexander Dumas novella, but the riff on it made into a movie by Cheech and Chong (which is hilarious, by the way)).  The script does a great job of enabling us to suspend disbelief on the cloning science, and we would have bought a weaker bridge connecting Sharon/Karen, but the link is so strong that it isn’t believable and borders on unintentional comedy.  The disbelief became a bit too much, for example, on Pg. 83 where Sharon essentially experiences Karen’s car crash while sitting in an office miles away. 

Suggestions For Improvement:

Big Picture Suggestions

 

  • There is a lull in the investigation from page 38 to 77; between these pages there are only 4 mentions of Neville, each about a paragraph in length. Given the somewhat lengthy gaps in detective work, we start to lose interest/immediacy in the who did it component of the plot. 1-2 additional twists along the way, perhaps an additional red herring, would help keep us interested in the murder mystery.

 

  • We think the link between Sharon/Karen could be dialed back without drastic changes to the underlying story.  It does drive an important emotional highpoint (pg. 88) when Sharon leaves, but we don’t think the physical link is necessary for Sharon to still be upset.  Even without the physical connection, Sharon would still conclude, after realizing that Alan autopsied Karen, that Alan views her as a science experiment, not as a person/his wife.

 

  • The script has a tendency to be dialogue heavy.  Challenge yourselves to convey more through physical action (hopefully action that would be interesting/engaging to watch).  The final 10-12 pages are action heavy, and they are some of the most engaging sequences in the script.

Odds & Ends

 

  • Pg. 2 & 3. The quick flashes to dead Sharon made us squirm!

  • Pg. 7. Nice touch building tension between Alan and Sharon.  The perfect amount of information to let our imagination start working on all that could be wrong in paradise.

  • Pg. 8. Heaping more tension on Alan/Sharon’s relationship, getting juicy!

  • Pg. 9-10. The technical speak is good in terms of building credibility with the audience, but you lost us a little (it may be spot-on accurate, we just don’t know that much about genetic research).  Are the characters still striving toward quickly growing human replacement parts, or something else?

  • Pg. 15. Sharon’s murder is the Big Event that catapults us into Act II – right on time, great placement.

  • Pg. 16. Typo. Sentence beginning “He gulps in a…” ends with a comma.

 

  • Pg. 17. The approach by the police, in particular Tadi’s comment “With all your technology” strikes us as an unrealistically confrontational/rude approach.  We would imagine that, two days after the crime, the police have determined that Alan was out of town and therefore a low grade suspect, but even if not, would they really be that crass to a respected scientist who just lost his wife (even assuming they’re working on a theory that they just need to rattle Alan to get him talking)?

 

  • Pg. 19. “This is not the way to start a friendship.” Fantastic line.  But, we felt it was spoiled by the very next line, “Either open your lab…” The first sentence is wonderfully menacing innuendo, but for us the second line is too on-the-nose and better left unsaid.

  • Pg. 21. Typo. “5Alan”

  • Pg. 30. Marcus’s reintroduction as a potential antagonist is a bit abrupt.  Consider doing a bit more to establish him and his potential motives earlier (1-2 additional appearances is probably more than enough).

  • Pg. 31. “…or the mom sniff a little something illegal.”  We didn’t get this joke – who is the mom?  Sharon?

  • Pg. 33.  Interesting Dr. Frankenstein/Igor theme developing. It borders on humor, whereas up to know the tone of the script has been serious.  Is the humor intentional?  If not, Alan’s line about villagers with pitchforks jolted us briefly out of the story – it seems like he is aware of the absurdity in a “winking at the camera, I know I’m in a movie” sort of way.

  • Pg. 35-45. The script has great energy in this stretch.  We’re: (i) intrigued by the Alan/Gabriela relationship; (ii) wondering who killed Sharon; (iii) waiting for either Leonard or Marcus to cause a problem; and (iv) worried there might be a mole.  But even better – what happens when the clone wakes up? Excellent job throwing up obstacles for Alan at every turn.

  • GENERAL NOTE: One thing we’ve been wondering about that is sometimes explained away in movies with similar notions of humans living in adult-sized womb-like environments (e.g., Matrix) is muscle development (and coordination).  In our, admittedly elementary, understanding, muscles need physical work to grow, so it seems like a lab-grown human made to adult size in a few weeks would have little-to-no musculature.  In theory, coordination is explained by the “cellular memory” concept, but that issue could probably also use some bolstering.

  • Pg. 52-60. The Karen/Sharon tension (and sexual tension between them and Alan) is really clever and quite fun. We didn’t really buy how easy it was for Alan to get them out of the Pure Genetic Research lab, consider rethinking that.

  • Pg. 58. Typo. Missing return after Karen’s first dialogue entry.

 

  • Pg. 67. The outcome here definitely leaves the audience wanting more – it’s human nature.  We’d like to see the fantasy play out!

  • Pg. 73. Great line from Alan, “I don’t love either like I loved my wife.”

  • Pg. 75.  We’re a little confused.  What thoughts did Karen put in Sharon’s head?  It wasn’t obvious to us.

  • Pg. 78.  The action entry is “Neville leans closer to Karen.”  But Karen and Neville aren’t in the scene (Alan is listening to them remotely on his ear buds), so we wouldn’t be able to see what Neville is doing.  This issue recurs a few times through this scene – you could resolve it with scene headings for each time we’re watching Alan vs what’s happening in the interrogation room, or with a “series of shots” type heading.

  • Pg. 83. We love that Karen has now been murdered twice! Great stuff.

  • Pg. 86. The shots of Karen and V.O. from Sharon/Alan are wonderfully creepy.

  • Pg. 96.  The embryo imagery is disturbing!

  • Pg. 109.  Loved the ending.  You pulled it all together nicely.

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