Don’t mess with science fiction.
Written by and starring Sumalee Montano, The Deal is a delightful and engaging sci-fi film that becomes far more entertaining than one might expect. Although the film feels like the titular ‘deal’ will force the film into a one note narrative, what results is a surprisingly tight, sci-fi thriller with some genuine surprises up its sleeves.
Set in the not-to-distant future, The Deal depicts a world where overpopulation and global warming have reached crisis levels. When a brutal virus rips apart the people, the entire world reaches an emotional breaking point… until a potential solution arises. Once citizens reach their 20th birthday, they have the opportunity to take a ‘deal’ that promises their care over the next two decades. Concerned about housing? A job? Medical care? Taking the deal ensures that each of these things will be taken care of. The only catch is that, after twenty more years, you are required to voluntarily give up your life.
In some ways, the most surprising aspect of the film is that it was completed in a pre-pandemic world. Taking place in a world where families are forced into isolation due to the otherworldly virus, The Deal feels like its premise has been ripped from the headlines. As it turns out, the film was completed prior to the recent global meltdown at the hands of COVID-19, giving it an almost added eeriness to it.
Without question, the strongest aspect of the film is its performance by Montano. Though leading behind the camera, it’s her on camera work that gives the film its heart and soul. Without giving away any spoilers, her performance demonstrates a clear passion for the film’s subject matter and her character. This is a film that wants to explore the very definition of parental love, and the sacrifices that we make for our family and Montano seems fully invested in the project. (In fact, she has even stated that Deal originated from her relationship with her own mother, giving the film a more personal edge to the script.)
However, some of the most poignant conversation in the film comes through its exploration of fear. Stricken by a global pandemic, the world of The Deal is one where people are afraid to leave their homes for fear for their lives. With terror gripping the people, the decision to take the ‘deal’ (or not) has become incredibly divisive. Despite being able to guarantee you protection from the virus for the next 20 years, there is a certain level of distain for those who are willing to accept the offer. (Again, eerily familiar, isn’t it?) Here, fear drives people to do irrational things, partially out of recklessness, partially out of grief.
Nevertheless, that fear also drives people together. In a world that demands that they beware for their health, The Deal reminds the viewer that we all must fight to support one another in the midst of otherworldly circumstances. That type of care often requires us to make sacrifices for the sake of others.
But, at the very least, it reminds us of the importance of those we love. And brings us together in the process.
Tightly written and executed, The Deal is an example of solid independent science fiction that feels cultural relevant (even if it was never meant to do so). As a result, for fans of the genre, this unexpected gem is a Deal that’s worth taking.
The Deal is now available on Roku.