In the “high risk, high reward” world of venture capitalists, rising star Joel lets it all ride on a deal that, sadly for he and his actress wife, painfully falls apart, leaving him with no other choice than to move in with his wife’s parents for financial reasons. Feeling like a huge failure, Joel unexpectedly finds some hope via a run-in with an old friend, whose business partner asks Joel to invest in a new experiential technology called XVR, or Xtreme Virtual Reality, the latest product of which allows wealthy folks to see life through the eyes of the less fortunate. Unfortunately for Joel, XVR’s makers’ intentions aren’t what they seem.
Shot in stark black-and-white and going into exceedingly dark narrative places, NYC-bred director Yedidya Gorsetman’s EMPATHY INC. is the best kind of lo-fi sci-fi, an intimate character piece rooted in big ideas and blending doses of brutal horror into its cerebral tapestry. Comparable to an extended and decidedly bleak BLACK MIRROR episode, EMPATHY INC. is a homegrown slice of pure genre-mashing ambition. —Matt Barone