Teenager Olly (Daniel Monks) is disabled and has had various health issues to deal with throughout his life. His doctors tell him that it’s likely he’ll have to start using a wheelchair soon. He decides to take advantage of a brand new treatment that’s just arrived in Australia – a full body transplant. However, rather than staying a man, he elects to be put inside the body of a good-looking young woman.
Unsurprisingly his friends are surprised, as they didn’t even know he was attracted to men, let alone that he might be interested being in a woman’s body. Although the new body gives Olly a new lease on life, it also causes problems as he takes his freedom to the extreme and others react badly when they discover who he truly is.
Pulse is a movie where I’d quite like them to go back, rewrite the script and have another crack at it. The film’s star, Daniel Monks (who’s disabled in real life), also wrote the script. While he has a good handle on certain aspects of what he’s dealing with, there are aspects the movie overlooks and which stop it working as well as it could. It has a good handle on sexuality and disability, but is far messier when it comes to gender.
It treats Olly’s choice to be placed in a woman’s body almost like a whim – as if this would be the natural decision for a young gay man, rather than Olly seriously feeling like they’re female. It becomes increasingly problematic as the movie goes on, to the point where you could interpret the entire movie as being unintentionally transphobic. (Some people may also take issue with the how blasé it initially is about ridding yourself of a disability, which is a more vexed issue than presented here). It’s a real shame as it’s a genuinely fascinating idea, giving the potential for a rather profound examination of the point where the physical body meets sexuality and gender, but it raises more issues than it’s able to handle.
That said, the central journey of Olly is an interesting one and Monks portrays it well. To give the movie full credit, purely on the terms it wants to deal with – disability and sexuality – it goes a good job, unpacking the issues of a closeted young, gay man who’s already had enough of dealing with being different. There’s an authenticity to that. It’s just that the premise brings in a whole bunch of other things that the movie isn’t tight enough to deal with and despite certain efforts (such as underlining that the male Olly is still inside the female body) it can’t quite overcome them.
Overall Verdict: The idea of a gay, disabled person being put in the body of someone of a different gender is a fascinating one with huge potential, but while Pulse works on its own terms, it raises more questions than it knows how to deal with.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac