Netflix’s Black Mirror
Season 4, Episode 4: “Hang the DJ”
Directed by Timothy Van Patten
Written by Charlie Brooker
A young man named Frank (Joe Cole) uses a dating app, guided by Coach (Gina Bramhill). He’s meeting with a young woman named Amy (Georgina Campbell). Starts out well when he stumbles, dropping a fork and flubbing his introduction: “Me name‘s not Fork, it‘s Frank.” Although they get laughing, enjoying themselves. Turns out the dating app decides the whole date, right on down to the menu choices. And the rules, they’re pretty strictly enforced.
This app puts people into relationships, but those relationships have an “expiry date.” Seems that Frank and Amy only have themselves twelve hours coupled up. Not much time to get to know one another, or get any sort of enjoyable love accomplished. Everything’s like a resort – they start off with a meal, after that they’re carted to a sort of personalised apartment where they’ve get to spend their time together. Everything is laid out, little relationship compartments. All else is left up to the couple. If they want to get busy, they can, or if they just want to spend the night relaxing, talking, whatever, that’s just as good, too.
Ah, “the System.” Before that we humans were left to the chaos of choice, whereas Frank, Amy, people in this advanced society have everything mapped out for them. Simple. Proper. Mental. Because what then if two people truly connect. The expiry date makes it all null and void. Sort of silly, no?
They spend a quite night in bed. They wake up the next morning, their relationship already having run its course. Too bad it’s all finished. The two of them go on their separate ways. Only they’re each questioning the System, the logic behind putting two people together for such a short time. Frank wonders if she wasn’t the one for him. Amy’s not sure of the point behind brief encounters. Nevertheless, they’ve got new dates already.
Frank’s late for his next one, a lady called Nicola (Gwyneth Keyworth). Already off to a bad start, then he finds out they’re together for a whole year. Meanwhile, Amy’s got nine months with her new guy Lenny (George Blagden); they’re doing significantly better starting out. They get back to his place, “consent to everything” digitally, and it’s off to the sexual races, lots of fun. Whereas Frank and Nicola don’t have as much of an exciting time themselves. The sex is fine for Amy, but she starts noticing little things later that annoy her. As does Frank, who’s got an entire year to look forward to suffering through.
Only makes things worse when, at a wedding for two people married through the System who found their “ultimate match,” when Frank sees Amy, all that wondering if she could be the one for him, never knowing. He has to do whatever the System tells him like a good lad. It’s easy to see the natural, non-digitally aided chemistry that’s grown between Amy and Frank when they talk for a moment. There’s such a longing that it hurts. Juxtaposed against the regular annoyances, they’re both counting down the months until freedom, and wondering what could’ve been had they been given more than 12 hours in a relationship.
And then it begins, again. Amy has another partner, this time for only 36 hours. Meaningless, empty sex, not enough time for anything else. Another 36 hour fling on the next match. More sex for the night. Frank, on the other hand, is released from bondage after his year, and he’s got a new match, as well. He’s ended up with Amy. They meet at the restaurant, smiles and laughs and it’s like a real date, instead of the emptiness they’ve each felt for too long. They decide not to check their expiry, to live in the moment. After the date is the apartment, the room, they take things slow getting into bed, playfully. If they weren’t put there by the System, it’d be just like old school dating.
Frank and Amy enjoy their time together, not worrying about the expiry. They spend time walking, chatting, learning about each other. Yet Frank worries privately, he doesn’t want their time to end. If they had it their way, this would be their final match. It’s obvious how compatible they are, why not have a go at a true relationship? Sadly, the System dictates all. And it dictates that Frank needs to check the expiry, needing to know: five years. But then the app recalibrates, and recalibrates, continually, going down and down and down until it becomes just 20 hours. All that potential time lost.
This starts to affect Frank, knowing how little they’ve got left. Amy notices his preoccupation with something. Eventually, he reveals that he looked at the expiry. She’s more devastated to know their time’s about up than to know he broke their pact. However, she’s pissed about that, too. Frank says “fuck the System” – escape, ignore the rules and the time, discover what else is out there. But she believes it’s all ruined. And everywhere around them are people, watching, ready to catch him if he decides to go.
“Everything happens for a reason”
On goes the System. Amy and Frank meet other matches. He’s stuck on her, completely. Then “Pairing Day” comes for Amy, she’s been paired with her ultimate match. She gets the chance to say goodbye to one individual. She chooses Frank, then tosses the app into the water. They meet at the restaurant. They’re willing to risk banishment, they want to be together, the two of them. It’s the right thing, the only thing.
When people try to stop them from leaving, Amy and Frank fuck the whole System up. They run for the walls outside, they climb up to the top. That’s when everything goes haywire. They find a place where they are a 99.8% match, all simulations of their relationship discovered that almost every single time they rebelled against their other ultimate matches. These two were always mean to be together, one way or another.
What a goddamn beautiful episode. Every now and then, Black Mirror shines a little hope into the bleak future it gives us to behold. There’s just so much emotion packed into this episode, I love it. “San Junipero” was another truly emotional piece of work, as well. This is different, but many of the same vibes at times.
“Metalhead” is next and it looks wild!