Future Tense

In This Beautifully Shot Sci-Fi Short, a Mind Swap Has Terrifying Consequences

In the opening moments of Trial, a new science fiction short film by the Brothers Lynch, the mysterious doctor Jennifer Bishop offers a paralyzed and disfigured soldier an opportunity: a new body. She promises, “Our biological hosts are created from the ground up, each one unique.” Soon enough, Bishop and her team have him on his feet—and not long after that things begin to go terribly, terribly wrong.

Anyone even passingly familiar with sci-fi body swap narratives will be able to guess many of Trial’s twists and turns. The pleasure here isn’t in what the filmmakers have to say—a grim moral summed up by Bishop’s admission that “all progress has a price”—so much as in the way they say it. Where some science fiction shorts go for big, bizarre effects, the Brothers Lynch take a more restrained approach. Each shot feels carefully composed and the pacing remains tense throughout.

Since most of the action is confined to the concrete corridors of Bishop’s hospital facility, we only see a portion of their near-future world. Those fragments are brought to life, however, by deft camerawork—especially in an impressive mirror sequence—and clever editing. Their elegant austerity suggests a world worn down by conflict and catastrophe, one in which those in power might be willing to try anything—no matter how dangerous—to carry on.

In a write-up of Trial for Short of the Week, Rob Munday says that the Brothers Lynch see the short as part of a larger project, one that they “are looking to expand in feature project Residual.” While it’s exciting to see what they might accomplish with a larger budget and more time to tell a story, their work in Trial is a testament to the power of minimalism and suggestion.