Bliss (3 stars)


Mike Cahill directs Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek in a reality questioning sci-fi

Indie director Mike Cahill (Another Earth, I Origins) goes a little more mainstream but stays rooted in his favoured genre of science fiction, as he brings together Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek for a heartfelt head-scratcher. Released in the same week as A Glitch in the Matrix, a documentary on simulation theory, the similarly themed Bliss sees flailing divorcee Greg (Wilson) start to question the very fabric of his reality when he meets a mysterious woman.

Hayek plays the enigma in question, Isabel, a glamorous but sketchy street-dweller, who Greg encounters after being fired from his job and following a disturbing incident with his boss. Nesta Cooper plays Greg's daughter Emily, who is on the cusp of graduating high school, with Jorge Lendeborg Jr his son, who has washed his hands of his unreliable dad. Greg has started to detach from his life and has become obsessed with a dream world, which he has rendered in a series of drawings; one such picture features a woman who looks remarkably like Isabel. Greg's mind is fully blown when Isabel suggests that, not only does this world exist, but that it is in fact their reality.

Although The Matrix is an obvious inspiration here, Bliss does eventually find its own groove, though Cahill initially struggles to make a story which features a certain amount of necessary detachment and disorientation coherent. There's an effective contrast between the worlds – one grotty and grey, the other shimmering and exotic – yet it's not really executed with any particular chutzpah.

The stars are a reasonable fit for the material, Hayek can be enjoyably crackers but neither adds much depth and emotionally it lacks punch. Nevertheless, the story speaks to our current predicament, as escapism becomes more a coping strategy than entertainment. And, for all its haphazardness, by the end Bliss has given us quite an interesting and earnestly intentioned idea.

Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Fri 5 Feb.


  • 3 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • Directed by: Mike Cahill
  • Cast: Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek, Madeline Zima, Nesta Cooper, Joshua Leonard