Unfortunately, the future doesn’t look any brighter for women than it does for men. In fact, women appear to have it a little tougher than men. At least that’s the way it appears in Advantageous, a science fiction film about a woman in the not too distant future who opts for a radical new cosmetic procedure in order to keep providing for her daughter. The woman is Gwen Cho, and until recently, she was the spokesperson for a plastic surgery company, but now she’s too old, and the company’s body-swap procedure is the only chance she has to keep her job.
Advantageous is concerned with much more than physical beauty though. Broadly, the film is about all the challenges facing women trying to make their way in the world. The film’s futuristic setting is eye-catching, but more, the absence of men in the story is striking. There are male characters, but only as many as are necessary to tell Gwen and her daughter’s story, and the presence of men looms over every decision Gwen makes even though they aren’t physically present. The world is patriarchal even though we can’t see it. That’s a clever filmmaking choice, because it expresses a reality of both the movie world and the real world without showing anything.
The film’s futuristic setting is important though in that it enables Gwen to undergo the futuristic procedure at the story’s core. Gwen literally has to become someone she is not to survive. She has to remake herself in the image that society deems most fit, a conflict not particular to women but certainly one women face with greater urgency in our contemporary world. Jacqueline Kim and then Freya Adams embody Gwen with quiet desperation and resolve, a description that also applies to the film itself. Advantageous is a film that sees the struggles women face and doesn’t know what to say, so it simply quietly weeps instead.
In the end, Advantageous is an odd film. It isn’t the kind of science-fiction that grabs you and pulls you along as it races through outer space. It’s the kind of science-fiction that focuses on the world we live in, makes small changes, and then asks us to contemplate the effects and what we’d like the future to look like instead. Its world is one of the prettiest dystopias you’ll ever see, and maybe its world got that way by not caring about being anything else.