Await Further Instructions (2018)
September 07, 2019
So this was a weird film that I watched and hated. But then I enjoyed it after I finished watching the movie. Then upon reflection, I hated it.
To briefly summarise about this film, a young couple moves into their parent’s house over Christmas. The boy is white, and the girl is Asian (at least British Asian, so that means South-East Asian), and the two are going to the boy’s parents place over Christmas. Some racial tensions arise within the family, which causes the couple to want to leave.
If this sounds like I’m describing Get Out, it’s because they are both similar in this plot point. Except Await Further Instruction (AFI) has this take place over in (from what I can remember, it was a few weeks ago I watched it) the first 20 minutes. AFI stops the couple and pretty much everyone from leaving by barricading the entire house. From then onwards, the TV has some vague instructions and messages it doles out to the family, and things get really crazy.
I would suggest you at least give it a quick skim on Netflix or on Wikipedia if you have no interest in the film. I don’t blame you for bailing out to Wikipedia as the film is all over the place. IMDB tells me the film is 91 mins long, but even at that length, the first third is pretty boring. Ignoring that, the entire movie is, quite frankly, a huge mess.
Once you’ve done watching (or reading) about the film, read over the spoiler line.
So the film is pretty crap. The characters are pretty two dimensional, and the writing is woeful. You have characters who are in the movie just to painfully antagonise the couple for no real reason (i.e. the sister and the grandad).
The biggest crime AFI commits is that it makes an effort to bring up so many heavily charged points. Points like parental abuse, racism, expert opinion vs the mob, authoritarianism, and so on. But in doing so, it never actually says anything about these points. It just lingers in the air like a really awful stink, and nothing is ever resolved.
For example, right at the beginning, the sister and the grandfather both make incredibly racist remarks at several points. This is never addressed again. Not even to say if anyone else is to/for. It’s just sort of dropped on the floor for the next political commentary.
As a British Pakistani person, it actually hurt not to see them addressed. It seemed more cowardly not to see the film tackle those remarks. I’d like to think my painful experiences, and the painful experiences of other ethnic minority don’t exist for other people’s shallow entertainment.
Throughout the film, the Asian girlfriend is * continually* undermined, which only adds to the racism angle, but this happens even after the grandfather and sister die. I’ll touch on this later.
The grandad keeps telling the dad how the dad used to have “accidents” and how a “few little slaps” sorted him out. It is revealed later that the dad actually wet the bed a few times and the grandad used to beat him (if I remember it was with a belt?) to “sort him out”.
Now, let’s just leave aside on how beating your kid stops your kid from pissing himself instead of making him piss himself even more. This plot thread added nothing to the story - we already knew the grandad was a wanker when he made his racist comments.
The dad is pretty authoritarian even though there are some issues with him not standing up to his dad. The dad’s relationship isn’t portrayed on screen as submissive to his own dad, so there really wasn’t any point to it. I’ve read online that it contributed to the dad’s behaviour, but it feels like a far stretch, as well as lazy writing.
The dad is the controlling figure around the house. Even if the grandad has a few comments, the father pretty much remains the “boss” of the family. During the film, TV demands continuously push the bounds of acceptable. Throughout the journey, the dad, if anything, seems submissive to the TV than anyone in his own family.
There comes a shark-jumping moment when needles arrive in a bag, and the TV instructs them to vaccinate themselves. Again - to absolutely anyone, this would be an incredibly stupid thing to do, and nobody would take needles from the chimney and stick them in their arm. Except for the dad.
The dad seems to obey the TV more than basic common sense, even to the detriment of his family. Some people think this is a correlation with the views of Brexit. I personally think that is reading far too deep into this film of two-dimensional characters with zero depth.
The dad then tortures his own son because of reasons. Well, the TV told him to. I’m serious. The film gets more outlandish as it goes on.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that I love this ending due to how batshit insane it is. I enjoyed it dropping previous subtlety to bash the viewer over the head with this unmistakable message. If anything, the ending should be watched if you are into endings that are so bad they’re actually kinda brilliant.
Up to the ending, you’re left to subtlely believe that some creep is watching the family and essentially controlling them against their will. This would be a great ending - a single person, a group of scientists working for the government, a group of killers who want to see a family suffer. The possibilities are endless.
The film goes for the TV is a literal alien trying to control families to go against their own will with cables for arms and all that bollocks. Anyone who goes against the alien TV’s wishes dies.
Just for a bonus, a newborn baby comes from the sister (who is pregnant). I can’t remember how, but the baby is born, and the TV is already giving instructions to the new kid on the block. Because, you know, babies are notorious for their ability to read political commentary off the TV straight out of the womb.
It is the most out-there literal interpretation of the media on TV influencing people. And it cracks me up as the family are using phones and computers, but none of this impacts the family. Given the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s pretty evident that social media played a massive part in controlling a population.
It’s so bad, but in all honesty, it’s the one part where the film shines. Ironically, it’s not trying to be clever by bringing up sensitive topics subtlely. Instead, it just goes straight ahead and says what’s on its mind in the most brazen way possible.
Overall I’d give it a miss, but I might be tempted to rewatch that ending on YouTube or something.