I didn’t come into this with high hopes after reading Daz’s review (see below), but the Blu-ray popped up in a sale at a very good price and my wife thought the story sounded interesting, so I thought it was worth giving it a try. The story is indeed an interesting one. Harmony is set in the future. It is not quite a post-apocalyptic world, but there has been a horrible war and people have tried to find a new way to live, to avoid that happening again. Their solution is a form of government control, with most people controlled by nanotechnology. This has benefits: it halts the ageing process in its tracks, but more importantly it takes control of aspects of people’s behaviour, to stop a war from ever happening again.
So immediately you can see how this is posing an ethical dilemma: people are living long and productive lives, and no longer need to fear conflicts, but that comes at the price of their freedom. Is that a price worth paying? The problem is that it’s one of those ethical questions that have a very obvious answer: no, of course it’s not. Freedom and individuality are too important to be traded away in return for safety. And of course it doesn’t work anyway. Once technology is involved, technology can be corrupted and twisted at the whim of somebody clever enough to do that. So the film never quite manages to be the mind candy you might hope it to be.
That’s not a huge problem if the characterisation is good, and fortunately we have a fascinating trio of women. As teenagers, before the nanotech kicks in to control them, they are determined not to live without freedom. Actually one of them is determined: Miach is very much the leader of the group, and the others are her followers. Together they form a suicide pact. So Harmony gets into some very uncomfortable territory to watch. Two of the girls fail to follow through on their promise, and the film explores the life of one of them in particular: Tuan, who now works for the World Health Organisation, which has become a sort of medical police force in the future. In the best scene of the movie, Tuan meets back up with the other girl in their group, Cian, and something incredibly shocking happens.
The majority of the film is a sort of thriller, where Tuan travels around trying to find out who is messing with the nanotech, and potentially has the power to change the whole world. It’s not as fun as it sounds: very slow-going, tedious and talky. This is a two hour film which could have done with half an hour trimmed off the running time. Only in the moments where two or three of the girls are together does the film really come to life, either in flashback or the present day. The lesbian relationship between Tuan and Miach works really well, adding to the significance of Tuan’s loss, and playing into the final moments of the film in a way that I can’t go into without spoiling things.
The animation is over-reliant on CGI for my tastes, and at times I felt like I was watching a computer game. There are moments that are visually impressive, particularly some of the environments Tuan visits, but it did often seem like scenes had been designed in such a way to show off animation that isn’t actually very good.
The final confrontation really made the film spring into life at the end, getting into some horrific personal tragedy, putting a lot into perspective about one of the main characters, packing an emotional punch, and offering up a final moral dilemma. I would like to discuss what happens in more detail, but really can’t go there without spoiling the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
Click here if you would like to enjoy Daz’s review of Harmony as well, but please be aware that it contains major spoilers for the film, so you might want to watch it first before you read, if this review has peaked your curiosity enough to give it a go. While I wouldn’t particularly recommend Harmony, for the money I paid for it I don’t think it was a bad purchase. RP