'Bliss' Explained: What is the real world where Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek's characters exist? Here's the answer
Spoilers for ‘Bliss’
The merits or demerits of ‘Bliss’ can be debated. The Amazon Prime Video sci-fi film starring Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek is an oddball in many ways. Borrowing ideas from ‘The Matrix’, myriad episodes of ‘Black Mirror’, and even ‘Westworld’, the film tells a tragic story of Greg and Isabel, and how these two people in love are ultimately separated from each other. Despite how good you think the film is, however, its style and story leave a lot of things ambiguous. Let’s take a look at the main questions that need to be answered here:
What is this futuristic technology?
The film’s story hinges on the idea that there exists a utopia where no one is poor, there is no pollution, where everyone is free to pursue their passion, and all is perfect. Except, the idea of utopias is fundamentally paradoxical.
Remember the end of ‘The Good Place’? “On paper, this is paradise: all of your desires and needs are met,” says Hypatia of Alexandria, Lisa Kudrow’s character. “But it’s infinite and when perfection goes on forever you become this glassy-eyed, mush person.”
Somewhat differently from that, the eponymous bliss experienced by people in this utopia is transient. And people start getting disgruntled. They’re annoyed. Even if by inconveniences that can really not be called that. So, to overcome this, Isabel, a scientist, invents something she calls the “brainbox” and this brainbox is the simulation of a world full of inequalities and injustices and poverty and unhappiness.
As the story goes, Greg is Isabel’s husband and a test subject in her experiment. And the life of Greg we saw before the revelation of the so-called real world, that was just a simulation. He was unhappy, discontent, depressed -- just generally unable to cope with his life. And then Isabel finds him there and brings him back. But there are some problems. They need a kind of crystal to come back to reality (ten each in fact) and because they did not have enough of these blue crystals, there were side effects.
One, Greg no longer remembered anything from the so-called real world and had to be introduced to everything. Two, he brought back some of the “fake persons” from the simulation into the real world and they began wreaking havoc.
Which world is the real world?
There are signs from early on that the world where the unhappy divorced and recently-fired Greg lives may be a fake one. There are cleverly placed glitches here and there, making viewers question what they saw. But the question still remains: which world is real?
One has to wonder, especially given how the film ended, if the depressed and out-of-work and divorced Greg’s reality is the actual one. It is plausible. The film begins with Greg as a broken man. His head is filled with medication (it’s not specified what the meds are for) and fantasies of a dream house. His daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper) is the only one who still cares for him. And he loses his job. And while he’s getting fired, he accidentally hurts his boss, and in all probability, kills him.
It is possible that all that takes place in the aftermath is a drug-induced psychotic break he’s experiencing, in the company of Isabel, a homeless paranoid schizophrenic sex-worker who provides him with narcotics and pulls him into her delusional world of a utopia where everyone is happy and his dream house exists. The film ends with Greg checking himself into rehab and telling the people at group therapy that a woman called Emily claims to be his daughter and that he believes her.
The life of Greg in the so-called simulation turns steadily worse. He goes from on-the-run, to become homeless and incommunicado with his daughter, to having no money and living off stale food restaurants have thrown out, and to be heavily dependent on the pills Isabel gives him. We see on several occasions Emily expressing concern for him.
Isabel probably exits. But she is no scientist. Just another homeless person the system has given up on. And that would become Greg’s fate as well if he continues to encourage this blissful idea of a world without wants and needs.
‘Bliss’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.