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Film / Self/Less

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Self/Less is a 2015 film directed by Tarsem Singh and starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Natalie Martinez and Matthew Goode. 20 Minutes into the Future, Damian Hale (Kingsley), an insanely wealthy real estate mogul, is dying from cancer. Following the lead of a business card he's slipped, Damian finds out about a process called "shedding", which will put his mind in an artificially-grown younger body (Reynolds). Afraid of dying, Damian agrees.

Unfortunately, the new body comes with a lot of hallucinations of locations and people. Albright, the head of the shedding process, assures Damian that this is normal and gives him medication to help with it. Damian is convinced there's more to the hallucinations than that. Cue the discovery of a dark secret behind the process of shedding...

Self/Less provides examples of:

  • The Atoner:
    • Damian, a ruthless Billionaire tycoon, is this in spades when he finds out the truth. He protects Mark Bitwell's family, teaches Anna how to swim, rescues them, provides them with enough money to live in the Caribbean and dies so that Mark could come back. He also leaves a letter for his estranged daughter to provide her with closure.
    • His friend Martin is this as well when he learns the truth about Shedding. He helps Damian find the warehouse where Maddie and Anna were taken to and helps them escape to the Caribbean.
  • Awful Truth:
    • The bodies used for shedding aren't artificially made. They were once living people, with lives of their own, coerced into donating themselves for whatever reason. Also, the pills that stop the seizures after shedding are slowly destroying the original inhabitants minds, so the new occupant has to choose between living at the cost of killing someone else or letting the original person return while they die.
    • Worse than that is that Albright is clearly engaged in human trafficking and has no qualms about kidnapping innocent people and using their bodies for shedding or harvesting a little girl's organs.
    • For Madeline, the man she thought was her husband back from the dead is actually a strange man living in his body.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Damian chooses to die so that Mark can come back to life and reunite with his family. Before dying, he leaves his daughter a letter to provide closure between the two of them and arranges for Mark and his family to have enough money to live in the Caribbean.
  • Body Backup Drive: How Anton sells "shedding".
  • Convulsive Seizures: Convulsive seizures are a side effect of shedding, if the medication isn't taken. It actually is the original personality of the body trying to reassert itself.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Damian. He leaves behind information and documents that help him later on and he insists on paying Albright only after the procedure is successfully performed. "I never do anything without insurance."
    • Martin too. He didn't like the idea of Albright having power over him and his family as well as the fear of running out of pills so he had them reverse-engineered.
  • Disappeared Dad: Damian was something of this to his daughter when she was little growing up, and became worse in later years. He regrets this, and in the end somewhat makes up for it, giving her a letter stating how much she meant to him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Madeline and Damian's argument when he tells her that he used shedding to move into her husband's body. When it's seen from Anna's perspective, it could easily be mistaken for any intense argument between parents, complete with Madeline giving Anna false reassurances that everything's fine and urging her to go play elsewhere while they finish talking.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: For all the lip service Albright gives his clients about ensuring that the world's best minds continue to live, what he does boils down to taking advantage of desperate people for his own ends. From the rich clients who can afford the multi-million dollar price tag of Shedding to those who would sell their bodies for one reason or another. Even Anton, who Albright rescued from a Russian Prison having been badly injured, could be counted as such.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Albright's wife is in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer's. Even after undergoing shedding, he still shows up to visit her and bring her her favorite candy. It's shown not long after that he's willing to drop what he's doing and come visit her if she calls him for help.
  • Heroic Suicide: Damian eventually stops taking his medicine and lets himself fade away so Mark can come back and be with his family.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When Damian is telling Albright about the visions he has during his seizures, Albright attributes them to being leftover memories from his past life. The Latina woman he saw was probably a woman he used to date. Damian points out that he never said the woman he saw was Latina.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • After spending most of the movie on the run from bad guys trying to capture them, Madeline thinks it's a great idea to run ahead from the guy helping her escape and flag down the only car on the highway at night. While she knows that the bad guys are on their heels and there's no guarantee that Damian's attempt at leading them away will work. It probably goes without saying that she and Anna both get kidnapped.
    • Albright's decision to send Anton to St. Louis to confront Damian and try to kill Mark Bitwell's family falls into this. For a quarter of a billion dollars, Albright could've spared some time to visit Damian in person and at least try to come up with some kind of agreement with Damian and Madeline. Jumping straight to burning down the Bitwell farm and murdering Mark's family without any negotiation on Albright's part ultimately led to his downfall.
  • Ironic Echo: At the start of the movie, Damian offers Claire funding for her organization, causing her to angrily say how he thinks that he can just solve any problem by opening his checkbook. At the end of the movie, Damian meets Claire in his new body, posing as a friend who spoke to her father before his death. He offers her an envelope from her father that has a piece of paper inside and, as she starts to react with disgust and thinks he was still trying to bribe her, says that her father knew he had a tendency to think that he could solve every problem with his checkbook. It was really a letter about how much she meant to him.
  • It's All About Me:
  • Albright considering that he shed himself into his assistant's body and that when push came to shove, he'd kill his own well-paying clients in order to protect his operations and continue his work.
  • It's A Small Net After All: Subverted. Every time Damian Googles something, the related search options are always shown. When he searches for "shedding", he has to specify that it's "shedding medical". When he Googles the visions he has during his seizures, it takes a few attempts to refine the search to what he wants. When he searches for information on the medicine he takes for the seizures, searching for "shedding medication" just gets him information on shedding for animals.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: One of the reasons Albright pushes forward with shedding, despite the cost, is because he argues that the benefits of saving brilliant minds make it worthwhile.
  • Karmic Jackpot: Mark Bitwell dies so that his daughter can survive. At the end of the movie, he wakes up to find that he's in the Caribbean, the person who bought his body died so he can live, and his family's waiting for him.
  • Limb-Sensation Fascination: When Mark comes back at the end of the movie, he stares at his hands and feels his face.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The forward slash in the movie title. It underpins the theme of body swapping.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Damian when he realizes that his body belonged to someone else.
    • Martin when he realizes what it cost to save his son.
    • Martin was the one who gave Damian Albright's business card, kicking off the events in the film. He thought he was paying him back after everything Damian did for him. Damian points out that he could have said no.
  • Necessarily Evil: How Albright seems to view killing people so their bodies can be used for shedding.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Albright's decision to pursue Damian and Mark's wife and daughter led to his downfall. Had he simply left them alone or even tried to negotiate with them, he probably would have been allowed to continue his work. It also likely made Damian's decision to die so Mark could live far easier.
  • Oh, Crap!: Albright when he realizes that he's not suffering from a seizure. Instead, Damian is using a flamethrower to burn through the bulletproof glass separating them.
  • Papa Wolf: Damian and Mark, if his shooting at Albright after stating that he planned to make use of Anna's organs is any indication.
  • Posthumous Character: Mark Bitwell, who died an unspecified amount of time before the movie. Although he turns out to be not quite as dead as everyone thought.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: According to Albright, the practice of having living people donate themselves as new bodies for shedding is only being done until they can work out how to actually grow artificial bodies.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Anna serves as one to Damian, to an extent. He regrets not being there for his own daughter when she was growing up, so he eventually starts caring for her. This includes fulfilling her father's promise to teach her to swim when she was better.
  • Rule of Perception: While some of it is explained by him wearing new clothes and having been declared dead, Madeline still doesn't recognize her husband's body until he turns to face her, despite seeing him from behind and hearing his voice, though she seems to find his voice familiar but can't believe it until she actually sees his face.
  • Sadistic Choice: When Damian realizes that his taking the pills are all that stand between him living and Mark's personality returning, he has to choose between fading away so Madeline and Anna can have Mark back or continuing to live while Mark is lost forever. He ultimately chooses to let Mark return.
  • Showing Off the New Body: After being put in the new body, Damian's montage of learning to control it is intercut with a scene of him walking up to a mirror and admiring his new appearance.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Anton. Honestly, what was he thinking playing a game of chicken with Damian without wearing his seatbelt?
  • Trauma Conga Line: By the end of the film, Anton has gotten burned alive, shot, and had his legs crushed. And that was on top of whatever horrific injuries he suffered in prison. As he's Albright's main enforcer, he deserved every moment of it.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Anton is this to Albright, who keeps shedding him into new bodies when his previous one gets too badly injured. It is a negative example as Albright knows that Anton is increasingly loyal and grateful every time this happens and uses that to his advantage.
    • Martin is this to Damian. He is the one who sent him to Albright in order to give him a second chance at life and later helps him save Madeline and Anna. Apart from alerting Albright when Damian turns up at his house, he remains a true friend to him through all of it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Albright, who considers shedding to be worth its incredibly unethical nature, since it means ensuring that influential and important people are able to live longer and contribute to the world. Averted somewhat given his clientele includes the very rich and the people who donate their bodies are anything but.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Damian could just as easily continue taking the meds and continue living, even joining Maddie and Anna in the Caribbean. He could've even dismissed his flashbacks and taken Albright at his word and avoided the entire conflict. Instead, he searches for the truth and eventually selflessly stops taking the meds, letting himself die so Mark can come back.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Damian ended up estranged from his daughter Claire when he wasn't present in her life as she grew up. He does try to reconcile, but she's more than a little put off by him trying to bond with her by offering her money. Her reaction to the letter he leaves her at the end of the movie shows that he at least was able to let her know that he loved her.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Albright shedded Martin's son into another child's body. He was also planning to harvest Anna's organs.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: When Albright's men subdue Damian and tried to shed Anton into Mark's body, he managed to swallow a bullet (metal disrupts the shedding process) and successfully fooled everyone into thinking he was Anton. Even Albright was impressed.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: What Albright does when a body gets too damaged or if you donate your body for Shedding. Or if you're a client who knows too much and refuses to play along. Or if you're an innocent third party associated with said client who knows too much.