FilmReview

Disconnect Me

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Director: Alex Lykos

Alex Lykos’s documentary, Disconnect Me, has a certain home-made aesthetic what could be seen as endearing. Lykos, wondering about our current relationship with our phones, iPads and laptops, records his decision to go for a digital detox for 30 days. His personal rule is that the only screen he can look at is his TV screen. His wife is allowed to use all devices, but he mustn’t look at them. We see him resigning his kit to her, watching mournfully as she locks everything into a safe.

It’s a funny little project. Alex admits at the beginning that he doesn’t have any profound reasons for enduring the detox. He feels annoyed with himself for the amount of time he spends mindless scrolling, At first he claims to feel glad to be outside playing golf instead, although why the two are mutually incompatible is not discussed. Every so often we’re told what day of the detox Alex is now on.

There are a lot of rather ho-hum sequences in which he’s speaking to camera while driving. He corrals a handful of people who can offer vox pop opinions. Some primary school kids are asked about their relationship with smart phones. Then some teenagers. It comes as little surprise to learn that the teenagers claim to spend an alarming number of hours on theirs and that their parents – usually the mothers – look shocked when this is revealed to them. Are the fathers too busy on their laptops/phones to be interviewed?

Interspersed with this are some nuggets of information, presented with the use of jolly graphics. A few expert figures are interviewed, including Lykos’s doctor, a psychiatrist, an academic. But the film is very light on the sources of any facts with which we are presented.

There’s a good comic turn from Alex’s Greek father. We hear his regular rants on Alex’s landline, refusing to understand why his son doesn’t have his mobile switched on. “Get a secure job!” is one of several insults he hurls at his son, a self-styled narrative storyteller.

Meanwhile Alex touches on deeper issues. There’s a quick section on child-labour in Bolivia, kids as young as six forced to mine for the minerals needed for smart phones. He gets a bit worried about electromagnetic waves – are our phones causing cancer? There’s something about wireless lobbyists in the USA. Research apparently shows that school kids do 9% better in exams if they’re not allowed mobiles in school. But who conducted that research and where we might check it is omitted.

An hour into the documentary and it’s still only Day 17 of the detox. Alex says to camera “the honeymoon period is over.” Communication with his film crew and family disintegrates to the extent that Alex decides to buy a basic phone just so people can stay in touch. He has some thoughts about AI, cyborgs and transhumans. We see a clip of drones taking off. By this stage it’s entirely possible that 99% of the audience will have checked their phones more than once.

Mercifully, the purgatorial period comes to an end. Alex tells his doctor he’s been sleeping better. In the closing credits we read that after the film was made in 2022, various Australian states have banned mobile phones in schools. This seems a bit opportunistic. It’s hard to think that Disconnect Me has had much influence.

Disconnect Me is released on 26 February exclusively on the Icon Film Channel.

The Reviews Hub Score

Mildly entertaining

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