The loss of your loved ones can be earth shattering, and grief can present itself in various ways. The desire to seek revenge is seemingly thrilling and cathartic for Woodstock teen Rosie (Sophie Rich), and when the local law enforcement are unwilling to seek out those guilty of a heinous crime surrounding the suicide of her younger sister Amelia (Samantha Nicole Dunn), Rosie feels the need to take justice into her own hands to avenge her sister’s death. Sarah Pirozek’s dramatic feature debut #LIKE is a gripping piece about forcing abusers to confront their actions, yet it fails to have a profound impact amidst its weak dialogue and character development.

The portrayal of grief, shown through Rosie and her mother (Marin Gazzaniga) plays out well and is hard hitting as the piece establishes itself at the start, and as the situation darkens, Rosie’s frustration grows to innate proportions, almost to the point where she loses sight of what she is really trying to achieve. On the anniversary of her death, Rosie tries to feel closer to her sister by rewatching her old vlogs where she expresses her love for dancing, art and selling dream catchers. Amelia’s life is presented in fragments, through these glimpses of her social media presence, leaving behind a ghost of her former self. Strong connotations are constructed here regarding the relations of the real and the artifice, and how our increased use of social media can leave us feeling vulnerable and alone. These feelings, as shown in Amelia’s case, can so easily create a false sense of sincerity and trust with whoever lies at the other end of the laptop screen, eager to prey on the innocent. An increasing amount of films over the past few years have attempted to tackle these concerns surrounding children online, which is great, but you will be disappointed if attempting to seek out a new perspective on the matter from this thriller.

After noticing that the man who exploited and bullied Amelia in the lead up to her death is back on the servers, Rosie sets out to track him down and turn him over to the police. “We can’t do anything without a confession,” the officer (Jeff Wincott) tells her, throwing a spanner in the works. There is also a highlighting towards the lack of legislation in place to protect people from online abuse, making the sheer lack of policing even more terrifying. #LIKE does well to show that this behaviour is nowhere near limited to the online sphere, making the unwanted sexual attention young girls receive the true villain of the piece. The lack of assistance from the local law enforcement is what causes the major shift in tone, and thank goodness for it, as the preceding character dynamics and dialogue are extremely wooden, and the possibility of growing tired of the cheesy teenage interactions is extremely high.

As films such as #LIKE spin their narrative webs, there appears to be a common occurrence in terms of the ‘flat’ portrayal of the main revenge-seeker – in this case, Rosie. Beyond seeing her at cheerleading practise and hanging out with her friends, there is little to be found in terms of her interests or hobbies, or anything to develop her character as more than a protective older sister. Even through watching Amelia’s vlogging clips, you may well feel that there is much more life to Amelia than Rosie (oh, the irony), which results in the piece as a whole feeling somewhat undercooked.

The links between the alleged paedophile (Marc Menchaca) and the online perpetrator are fairly weak, yet Rosie sees what she wants to see and pursues him – a process not that different to how he would stalk these little girls’ profiles. What follows between the man and Rosie borders on torture, uncomfortable yet impactful, but a one trick pony all the same. The treatment and humiliation of the accused acts as a symbolic release of sheer anger at those who unapologetically traumatise, sexualise and manipulate young girls, the static, long-standing shots forcing the viewer to revel in his pain, confronting his wrongdoings. Especially during these torture scenes, Rich is #LIKE’s saving grace, her performance holding down the entire narrative. She has the ability to keep you engaged even when the main plot begins to drag its heels, and some moments of pure intensity shared between Rich and Menchaca almost make the watch worthwhile.

On the surface, #LIKE is a cathartic thriller, constructed as a response to the frustration of those whose lives have been damaged through the inhumane sexploitation of young girls. Beyond that, however, it has very little to offer that is new, or at all refreshing. #LIKE had ample opportunity to offer something rejuvenating to what can be a monotone subgenre, but its cheesy dialogue and undeveloped characters all prevent it from truly hitting its mark.

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#LIKE is now available on VOD