Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson (both soon to be Marvel stars) take centre stage in the latest sci-fi film from Mike Cahill, a writer-director known for exploring themes about the nature of reality. And Bliss, the film out now on Amazon Prime Video, is certainly no different.
Wilson stars as Greg, a man whose life is in disarray. He meets a beautiful woman named Isabel (Hayek) who tries to convince him he is living in a simulation. After taking some blue crystals, Greg and Isabel wake up in the real world. Greg then has to reckon with two realities competing for his attention.
Don't worry, we haven't spoiled anything (this is all in the trailer, perhaps surprisingly). But in case you were left slightly confused by the movie, and its ending, fret not, we're here to make it all clear. Warning: spoilers for Bliss follow.
Greg's life is a bit of a mess, even before he meets Isabel. He's clearly addicted to painkillers and estranged from his ex-wife and two kids, though his daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper, See) is trying to salvage some sort of relationship with him.
But Greg is preoccupied with doodling a fancy house and a beautiful woman who haunts his dreams, and with his painkiller addiction. When he's fired — presumably for forsaking his duties in favour of doodling – he accidentally kills his boss (the one truly shocking moment of the film).
Greg escapes the office by propping the boss's body up with his shirt sleeves stuck in the window's handle and drawing the curtain so no one sees him. Fleeing to the bar across the road, Greg is spotted by Isabel who says, cryptically: "You're real."
She reveals that she has seen what he did and points up to the building where Greg's boss's body is pressed against the window. But Isabel promises she can help him if he goes and gets a necklace with amber crystals from her ex-boyfriend who is in the bar's bathroom.
He returns with the necklace and tells her he was passed out, so she instructs him to go back and get his wallet. While he's away she puts a pill in his drink. Greg returns, with wallet, and the two drink up.
Isabel then uses her 'powers' to seemingly open the window, causing the man's body to fall to the ground in what appears to be a suicide. Greg, convinced by her powers, joins her on a spree in which they both believe nothing matters, given that everything is a simulation.
They go on some more hijinks, which mostly involve roller skating and making people fall over, but soon are arrested for stealing from the roller rink. Out of amber crystals, Isabel goes on the hunt, but while she's scoring, Emily finds him and pleads with him to come with her.
But Greg — now totally dishevelled and homeless — can't break free of Isabel's hold on him (and the drug's). She gives him a photo of her at her graduation (an event he promised he'd attend but missed, due to his drug-induced stupor) and writes her phone number on the back.
Isabel and Greg do more drugs, but when Greg wakes up and Isabel is gone, he sneaks to the community centre and uses a payphone to call his daughter. He returns to find a panicked Isabel, who insists that Emily is not real and decides that it's time to leave the simulation.
They share some blue crystals, whose purpose is to wake them up, and they come to in a fancy lab where they're hooked up to a brain box (literally a box of brains floating in liquid). Isabel explains that they're both scientists, and they all live in a utopian world now, though Greg can't remember any of it.
She ensures him his memory will return, and in the meantime, the two indulge in their seemingly idyllic life. However, just as Isabel is presenting her 'research' on the brain box (which amounts to 'one must experience the bad to appreciate the good') to the scientific and artistic community, Greg sees Emily in the crowd and follows her upstairs. At the same time, a mob of protestors break in.
Isabel explains that because they didn't take enough blue crystals, they've brought some of the simulation with them into reality. They return to the brain box lab and go back into the 'simulation' and begin the hunt for the right amount of blue crystals.
An increasingly erratic Isabel shoots her drug dealer (who is also supposedly a doctor in the 'real world') and flees with the drugs, but there still aren't enough for both of them to 'escape' the simulation. The police begin pursuing them, and with no way out Isabel gives the blue crystals to Greg to escape.
However, Greg reveals that he wants to stay, and Isabel reluctantly agrees to let him. She draws the attention of the police so Greg can escape. He watches over his shoulder as she takes the blue crystals. The audience hears a strange noise, but we see nothing. Greg then flees.
He runs straight to a rehab centre, where the leader of a group therapy session says that there is no shame in being there and that they've all felt the effects of chasing 'bliss' — seemingly the name for the drug. Greg takes out the photo of Emily and says "this woman says she's my daughter, and I believe her."
The final scene is Greg approaching Emily with a bouquet of flowers, apologising for being late for their meeting. Emily says: you're not late – you're here, and the two embrace.
So, the film ends seemingly firm-footed in the idea that there is only one real world, and it's far from utopian. Isabel was simply a woman whose life had succumbed to her addiction, and who took Greg along with her for a period of time. But Greg's love for his daughter, and desire to reconnect with her, was enough to pull him back out of his addiction.
Bliss is available to watch now on Amazon Prime Video
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