A lonely girl, isolated and driven by a desire to connect, goes on a spree of intimidation and criminality that she broadcasts online to an ever maligned and vicious audience. However, as her actions intensify, her grip on reality begins to slip and the nightmare of the self leads her to the darkest of paths.
Like Me plays fast and loose with its array of stylistic choices, creating a collage that occasionally flows into spaces of distortion with an almost punkish sense of trippy surrealism. These outbursts of vivid creativity blend perfectly with the character’s perspective and reinforce the tonal and visual kinetics with a true sense of artistry; a sort of explosively excessive poem that, admittedly can overstep the mark into indulgence, yet always feels driven by the central conceit to confront the excessive stimulus that abounds and suffocates the visually dominated social media communities that have changed human experience and desire, for better and for worse.
In this sense, through this representation of social malaise via an agent of artist as destroyer, Like Me plays almost as The Driller Killer for millennials, imbued with the same attitude and dominated by a character with the same sense of identity crisis and malformed rage. Another reference can arguably be seen in the dominant use of purple, green and blue colour tones that reflect the same use of these same distinctive tones in Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac remake, a film that shares Like Me’s central focus on the warped mentality and perspective of its unstable lead.
An example of the visually dynamic – but richly representational – imagery on display comes in the repeated motif of eating early in the film; the opening credits are dominated by close ups of Kiya’s mouth as she shoves brightly coloured sweets and liquids into her mouth – a display of excess that literally leads to her vomiting. Later in the film, this sequence of excess is reflected in her force-feeding of Marshall (played by the icon that is Larry Fessenden) who barks, “I can eat anything…I can eat everything!”
These grotesque depictions of consumption seem to directly reflect the unending desire to consume all stimulus in modern society, particularly reflecting the destructive greed of the online community as it feeds on the content supplied by Kiya, increasingly growing fat and demanding more from her as it sustains itself until the inevitable purge, a purge that lurks in every single charged montage of reaction videos. It’s a nihilistic vision at times, but one that feels vital, not only motivated by the personality and psychological frenzy of it’s central character, but also crucially by the empathy created by Addison Timlin in that role.
Timlin shines as Kiya, fully articulating a level of unsettling physicality that reflects her interior distress with perfect creeping dread; however, it is the incredible amount of empathy she is able to generate in the more subtle moments of introspection, where the harsh defences open to reveal a lost and lonely soul desperately trying to understand their place in a world that has become frequently more impermeable behind the layers of reality and fantasy.
Her childlike spirit, reflected in her interaction with a child in a gas stop and even in her motions, holding herself when she is not “performing” with a blend of restlessness and awkwardness, uncertain in her own skin, a true performance where the physical evocation works in tandem with the chaotic experimental visuals to express the inherent fragility and vulnerability coalescing into a storm of violence as creative expression. Kiya has spiralled into a vortex of altered reality and you can feel Timlin beautifully reflecting that internal conflict, as her entire self-identity blurs within a voracious culture that would embrace and condemn her all at once.
Unfortunately, the film seems to hold an imbalance in terms of the argument it stresses and the stylistic indulgences that ripple through, in particular the insertion of one particular online commentator within the aforementioned accumulated selection of fictional online reactions. This focus on the character of Burt serves a narrative purpose (he becomes the locus of Kiya’s frustrations and hate in his constant rejection and belittling of her), yet the presentation of these scenes is too simplistic and his diatribes so jarringly, unrealistically incendiary, that he feels like the filmmaker’s puppet, and this truly takes the audience out of the immediacy of Kiya’s journey. More so than some of the stylistic excess, this direct and unrefined address only serves to sully some of the more interestingly challenging moments of commentary in the film, often served with attitude and a gleeful sense of exploitation that shares the same playful zeal of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.
Like Me is an intriguing if flawed examination of identity and connection in the social media culture that can isolate as much as it connects. Led by Addison Timlin’s strong central performance, the film’s lurid vision of desperation, desire and dislocation is a work of aggressive and pointed stylisation, which may sometimes work against the film as some of its criticism and comments come across as lacking the subtlty to truly engage with, but ultimately the conviction and commitment to depict this particular worldview, and moreover, fascinating character, marks out Like Me as a bold, and at its best, strikingly transgressive experience.