“Loveland,” also released as “Expired” in some countries, is Australian independent filmmaker Ivan Sen’s take on a futuristic cosmopolitan Asian city which really has no place for love. Visually akin to Hong Kong in real life and Los Angeles in Blade Runner, Sen’s futuristic city is gradually losing everything real and replacing it with fabrications, which include the residents and even their emotions. Despite having a particular and likable visual style with the use of lights and colors, a haphazard narrative, an unnecessarily poetic script, and an overall sense of pretension bring the film down to a tedious watch.
‘Loveland’ Plot Summary:
Jack is a middle-aged man with tough looks and a demeanor, but he is clearly burdened and worn out by his life in the city. In a world full of enough professional and personal rivalries, Jack works as a hired assassin, going around the dark and shady corners of the metropolis to finish off his targets. While traveling one day on the subway, he comes across a woman who he finds of attractive interest. Being someone very experienced in sneakily following people around without their knowledge, Jack goes around following this woman and reaches a club. Going in as a potential customer, he realizes that the woman is one of the many performers at the club; she sings for paying customers from behind a glass chamber, where the customer can see her, but she cannot see them.
During their session, the woman tells Jack that her name is April, and she has moved to the city in search of a living from her small native village in South Vietnam. After the session ends, Jack continues following April around on multiple occasions. He seems to feel an intense attraction towards her, something that is very new to his experience. But along with that, he is also going through bouts of ill health, sometimes pain in his chest, and sometimes something else, for which he is seen taking medicines, but the reason for which is unknown. One day, while following April, he goes into narrow and empty lanes and suddenly realizes that a dark-skinned man seems to be following him. This face is known to him, as the man was also present in a restaurant on the first night, when Jack was on a mission to kill. Jack goes back to the club, and as April recognizes him by his voice, he asks her out to dinner.
That very night, after their date is over, while walking on the streets alone, Jack once again sees his stalker and tries to approach him. But the man carelessly walks onto the main road and is violently hit by a speeding bus. As Jack goes to check on him, he sees that the man is not a human but a humanoid robot that has been destroyed by the accident. He picks up a memory chip from the scene of the accident and tracks it down to Masuka corporation, a biotech company headed by scientist Dr. Bergman who has been missing for a year. Jack tries to track down this scientist while his health grows worse, and he has to consult a doctor about it. The doctor, too, is confused by his ill-health despite having “clean DNA.” Jack tries to ask Bergman for help, but he refuses to trust him.
After another date with April, Jack confronts another man who seems to have been following him, and the latter explains that Jack had killed his brother, and he wanted to get some sort of revenge. Taking complete control of the situation, Jack is about to shoot the man dead, but falters at the last minute as he loses control over his own body and throws up and falls to the ground.
What Is The Cause Of Jack Falling Sick?
Jack is quickly helped back to his feet by Bergman, who had been tailing him the entire day. He takes the ailing assassin to his small apartment and checks on his vitals. Jack reveals that he has been feeling sick since around the same time that he met with April, and the scientist suggests that the two might be somehow linked. After he leaves, Dr. Bergman starts to look into this curious case, trying to read up on his old research documents on life extension and also secretly visiting his old laboratory at Masuka. He realizes that a stranger is also stalking him and trying to get into his well-guarded apartment.
Meanwhile, Jack and April spend a lot of time with each other, growing closer and confiding secrets about their past. April reveals that she once had a daughter who she lost in the world and that she regularly prays for her well-being. Jack, too tells her about his fazed past, about his mother, who abandoned him at a young age, and his father, with whom he does not keep in touch. Although April wants Jack to spend the night at her place, he insists on leaving, saying that it is not safe for her to be near him.
The next day, Jack visits the last address of his father that he had and is informed that the old man had died a year ago. Jack, once completely unaffected by any of these emotions till one point in his life, now almost breaks down after hearing of his father’s demise. Bergman also visits April’s club and tries to convince her to stay away from the hitman. Then, meeting with Jack, he reveals that in his early childhood, the man was subject to an experimental program in which street children were taken to test trials to extend life. In it, some hormones were restricted from being produced in their bodies, which essentially made them devoid of any deep emotional feelings. Jack had been a part of this and therefore could be a cold-blooded killer, and the corporation was now sending men, or humanoids, to bring him in and conclude the research. However, these hormones now caused a resurgence in Jack’s body, which made him feel so strangely attached to things, and also, this was causing an imbalance in his body which was making him so sick.
Bergman also reveals that he was the one heading all such experiments, but is now terribly remorseful of them, and also that Jack is sure to die if his body keeps producing the hormones. For some time, Jack tries to stay away from April, still looking at her from a distance, but then ultimately gives himself in as the two spend a romantic night together.
Despite the character of Jack being framed as a source-less drifter, enough information has been provided about him. He remembers his mother, and tries to very twistedly grow closer to her memory by paying for a night with an elderly sex-bot and then only sleeping with her hand over his head. He remembers his father, and remembers not to meet him. He recalls the sounds and experiences of his childhood, presented in black and white by the film.
But he also has this ever-growing doubt about the actuality of these memories—whether they were really memories or just a dream. This fixation with what is real and what is not continues, as there is enough reason to be doubtful in the world he lives in, where fake plastic-like strawberries are served at clubs. It is perhaps Jack’s gradual realization about the fabric of his life, along with his growing ability to feel, that the director wants to talk about throughout the film. But overall, there seems to be a shroud of almost forced inexplicability and depth to the film.
All three characters are assigned poetic and lyrical monologues, which do not add anything, but instead become dull very quickly. The backdrop of science-fiction also does not play much of a role other than Jack’s condition and the ever-present flashing neon lights. There are one or two scenes where civilian protests on the streets are shown in news programs, quite like the recent conditions in Hong Kong, but nothing more of that is explored either.
‘Loveland’ Ending Explained: Does Jack Die At The End?
The next morning, Jack wakes up alone in the apartment, and there is no sign of April anywhere. Coming down to the street, he sees two men (one of whom was earlier seen outside Bergman’s apartment) and a black van waiting to abduct him. He starts limping towards the other side of the street, with the two men following him, and then suddenly sees the young man he had not been able to kill earlier in the film. The man now yields a gun and shoots at the two perpetrators. A gunfight follows, which kills all three men, but Jack remains unharmed in the middle; he limps into a corner alley and possibly passes out. With a slow fade, the scene changes to a tall skyscraper where Jack is seen working as a construction laborer. He used to work in this profession earlier, and is now seemingly back to it. He goes back to the club and asks for April, but is told that she has returned to Vietnam. Looking at the plate of fake strawberries, he walks out of the club with a disheartened spirit and walks into the crowd.
Jack does survive physically, but he is definitely lost spiritually. His growing feelings were already making his life more difficult, and now without even his beloved April, Jack’s life is nothing but hollow. In a short sequence of fleeting scenes played in slow-motion, April’s perspective is shown as she walked away from the apartment the previous morning. She had removed Jack’s gun and thrown it away, which had rendered him defenseless and could have led to his death. She is also seen meeting with her young daughter, but by now, we really do not know what is real and what is fake. By the end, viewers are left with more confusion, as Jack promises to keep waiting for April in his seemingly unending expanded life. It would be really difficult for even the most enthusiastic viewers of the science-fiction genre to take ‘Loveland’ with any seriousness.
Loveland (or Expired) is a 2022 Australian Science Fiction film written and directed by Ivan Sen.