starring Artemis Shaw, Prashanth Kamalakanthan
written and directed by Artemis Shaw & Prashanth Kamalakanthan
by Walter Chaw Prasanth Kamalakanthan and Artemis Shaw's New Strains is perhaps the definitive film about the COVID shutdown, addressing it both straight-on and metaphorically in adopting the central conceit of Michael Tolkin's dystopian novel NK3, in which a world-ending virus has as its primary symptom the infantilization of the infected. "New Strains" refers to both viral evolution and the manifold tensions introduced into the new romantic relationship of vacationing couple Kallia (Shaw) and Ram (Kamalakanthan), who land in the Big Apple right when the world shuts down. Trapped in a well-appointed, centrally-located flat, they bicker, watch television, have spiritless sex, and disagree over how seriously to take the risks of infection. Kallia, giving off some Lena Dunham vibes, is loose about masking and decontaminating when entering the living space. Ram, notably more uptight, freaks out a time or two in response to her laxness. It doesn't help that she deals with strife through giggling and taunting. Indeed, for all of Ram's irritating quirks--his fastidiousness and jealousy--I instantly despised Kallia for her schoolyard cruelty.