SXSW Film Review: ‘This Is Your Death’ And The Unflinching Reality Of Media Today

There’s something in the description of This Is Your Death that seems synonymous with our point in history. A ratings-obsessed reality show host (Josh Duhamel), creates a new game show where people take their lives, while the audience crowd-funds the charity of their choice.

Sure, the premise sounds caustic, but not that far from our current state of media, which has now overlapped with both politics and entertainment. Now, notions like decency and morality seem like unnecessary roadblocks, reactionary emotions reserved for pearl-clutchers and the permanently offended.

Director and co-star Giancarlo Esposito looks at all of these tenets under a microscope, while filtering them through his entirely human characters.

A game show host by trade, Duhamel’s character, Adam Rogers, having witnessed both a murder and suicide in the movie’s reality show send up of Married To A Millionaire, starts off as a fully-realized Howard Beale. He goes on a morning show named Morning Show USA, (another broad, scathing swipe at our pop-culture landscape), and refuses to read the apology spelled out on the teleprompter before him, instead speaking to the honesty of the moment.

The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies plays Karina Rogers, Adam’s sister who works as a nurse. She sees her brother’s increasing desire for ratings as an affront to the works she does, as he trivializes humanity for the biggest audience share.

Esposito plays Mason Washington, a down-on-his luck salesman who’s working multiple part-time jobs and struggling to keep a roof over his family’s head. As his situation grows increasingly desperate, the game show that he abhors on principle looks more and more like the only hope for his wife and children.

As circumstance continue to intertwine these characters, Esposito’s film is just as much an indictment of our own societal nature to be shock and dismayed, as it is the media who provides it. Before it’s over, This Is Your Death becomes a chicken-or-the-egg question of who really bears the responsibility of it all, one that leaves you with no easy answers.

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