Imbued with playful telekinetic powers, seeking vengeance on roller-skaters is just part of the mischief Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek get up to in Bliss, a slick and thoughtful dissection of reality. Who can blame them, living as they are in a dark and painful world no more real than a video game? In the third entry into his highly intriguing oeuvre, director Mike Cahill posits that true bliss can be experienced only by suffering first.

Greg (Wilson) lives in a world of grey saturation, divorced and seemingly resented by his two kids, plagued by visions of a Utopian home. His life changes when he meets Isabel (Hayek), a free spirit who convinces him he is living in a simulated world. Cahill takes cues from The Matrix as well as the classic Hollywood meet-cute, but creates a brilliantly entertaining and original scenario that sees the characters living without responsibility – with no fear of consequences and no qualms about who they hurt.

It plays to the film’s strength to communicate so much without ever really giving an answer. Greg is never fully sure what is real, and his actions betray remarkable uncertainty that speaks to Wilson’s surprising strengths as an actor. In his previous works, Cahill has always been fascinated by the human response to scientific breakthrough, and Bliss is no different. Through Greg’s possible enlightenment, Cahill signposts an imminently painful choice, keenly felt when the moment finally arrives.

Bliss suffers the same predicament as Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s recent effort Synchronic: with a bigger budget and higher profile cast comes a responsibility to please a crowd, and the filmmaker is noticeably restrained here. Yet, in the hands of a capable star like Wilson, Cahill’s experiment with more mainstream fare retains the director’s creativity and vision, and adds a significant entertainment factor.



CAST: Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek, Nesta Cooper, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Madeline Zima

DIRECTOR: Mike Cahill

WRITER: Mike Cahill

SYNOPSIS: Greg struggles to concentrate on his work and family, until a beautiful stranger appears in his life, trying to persuade him that his world isn’t real.