COMA Review: Dealing with Lockdown, An Isolated Fever Dream

Bertrand Bonello wrote and directed; Louise Labeque and Julia Faure star.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
COMA Review: Dealing with Lockdown, An Isolated Fever Dream

How did you deal with life during COVID?

The film opens Friday, May 17, at New York's Roxy Cinema, and will open later in other cities. Visit the official site for more information.

In between Zombi Child (reviewed by Dustin Chang, now streaming on Tubi) and the recently-released The Beast (also reviewed by Dustin Chang), French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello dealt with the COVID lockdown by writing and directing Coma, starring Julia Faure (who would go on to appear in The Beast) as mysterious vlogger Patricia Coma and Louise Labeque (who had just starred in Zombi Child) as a teen girl who falls under the spell of Coma's videos.

It's a good setup for a low-budget production made under pandemic lockdown conditions. Bonello strains mightily to manipulate the restrictions imposed upon everyone in the interests of safety. As a creative artist -- he not only wrote and directed, but he also composed the score, which he has been doing all throughout his filmmaking career -- he reached for any tool that was at his disposal.

Thus, Coma starts with voice-over narration to accompany a jumble of disjointed images before introducing the vlogger and the girl who can't stop watching her videos on her laptop. The girl dreams of getting lost in a forest, represented by a lower-resolution video.

Dolls are used to represent two characters, a young woman and her brother, who are experiencing some of the same situations and emotional reactions as the fully-human characters. At another point, 2D animation takes over for the dolls, as a further representation of the isolation and loneliness that afflicted humanity during the pandemic.

As a whole, it's wildly experimental, yet it still manifests vestiges of Bonello's ability to tell stories through visuals. Having now watched all six of his films released since 2011 -- four of which are available on streaming services, I can more readily see how Coma fits into his oeuvre, especially in how the film flips easily, if sometimes confusingly, between varying perspectives in the narrative and in time, as well as his preference to establish characters through atmosphere and mood rather than a strict storyline.

Frankly, Coma is a minor yet seductive curiosity, of primary interest to those who are already fans of Bertrand Bonello's distinctive work and/or of experimental films in general. For an admittedly small prospective audience, it holds much genuine artistic intent and accomplishment.

Never stop creating, gentle people. Go forth into the night and make light of what you will.


  • Bertrand Bonello
  • Bertrand Bonello
  • Julia Faure
  • Louise Labèque
  • Ninon François
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Bertrand BonelloFilm MovementJulia FaureLouise LabequeLouise LabèqueNinon FrançoisDramaFantasyMystery

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