By THOMAS BOND
This latest independent, low-budget mind-trip has lofty ideals, but without a single driving force to make them worth anything. Branded is set in a world very much like our own, a world ruled by brands and the companies who market them. To assume that this film is further from the truth than it is closer would be ignorant, in my own humble opinion. So, we’ve established that the world is our own. Enter the main characters, a man and woman, in love, who see the world for what it is and take advantage of it until the world chews them up and spits them out. Up until this point in the film, the storytelling lacks anything that compels us to root for any of the characters, and presents us with weird scenes, flashbacks, and a monotone narration that seems out of place, at best. Once our male hero is banished and is enlightened in the middle of a field by a star cow in the sky that tells him to perform an ancient sacrificial ritual (yeah, that’s right), he heads back to find his girl and change the world. While we’re never led to believe that he didn’t know how the world works, his new-found enlightenment has now allowed him to literally see how marketing is urging and pulling us this way and that, as he is the sole witness to a world where people are controlled by monstrous personifications of marketing which grow from their backs (yeah, that’s right). It’s this last act that finally goes somewhere and gives us reason to root for our heroes, and yet I felt it was more unnecessary than the rest of the film. The creation of these marketing “monsters” seems nothing more than a cool pipe-dream designed to show us what our world is doing to us. But it’s never explained! Why, I ask! Where do they come from? What do they want? Who is the sky cow? I can suspend my disbelief for a film that rewards me for it, that takes me to a world that makes sense in spite of its oddities. This one just let me down, and would have served its message better if it took time to set a few things straight or simply play it straight, with no sky cow. I dunno, maybe I’m just no fun.