"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Black Box: With One Body You Can't Dance with Two Minds

Immortality via uploaded minds into computer systems has been a staple of science fiction for decades.  It's rarely done as well on the screen as it is Black Box, on Amazon Prime Video since October.

Nolan's having trouble recovering his memories after surviving a severe car accident, which apparently initially left him brain dead.   That's a start for this kind of narrative we've also seen many times before.  But Black Box becomes memorable in the almost delicate, compassionate subtlety with which Nolan struggles to regain his self, and the traumatic and heart-warming surprises that await him.

The more specific problem for Nolan is he's recovering not only his memories but even more of someone else's.  He goes to a specialist, Lillian, who's very understanding, and puts him through various procedures such as hypnosis and connections to arcane devices.   We learn, the hard way -- or Nolan learns, the hard way --


that Lillian has actually downloaded another mind into his body, the mind of her son, Thomas, who died some months ago.  Lillian uploaded his mind before he died, and she hopes to bring her son back to life, or his mind back to life, in Nolan's brain and body.

I've already given away too much of the story, in case you ignored the spoiler warning, so I won't say anything more, specifically.   But I like the way Nolan, who retains some of his memories along with Thomas's, tries to work things out, as does Thomas in Nolan's body, too.   There's an old Yiddish saying, with one tuchus you can't dance at two weddings.   Black Box is in effect a story of with one body you can't do the dance of life with two minds.

Very well acted by Mamoudou Athie as Nolan, Amanda Christine as his precocious daughter Ava, and it was good to see Phylicia Rashad as Lillian.  Fine story by Stephen Herman and directing by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour.  Highly recommended!

See also Review of The Silicon Man by Charles Platt (1991)  


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