Attila Hartungs debut feature FOMO is a scathing look at over the top masculinity and the lasting effects of abusive use of social media.
Teenage friends Gergö (Yorgosz Goletsas), Patrik, Bandi and Ábris are into three things: partying, sex and their online following. One night, at a drunken house party, vulnerable Lilla (Panna László) falls victim to the boys. A dare gets out of hand with the youngsters’ world-changing forever overnight.
FOMO is a film that focuses on the growing misuse of social media from a younger generation. A generation where everything has to be filmed and shared online, there are no secrets anymore. Even dares and pranks have to be filmed for their audiences. We watch as graphics show videos and photos being shared and commented on. There is also a great sense of premeditation to the whole opening act. Our four make sure they can record what they can, remove others from their story so they can create a separate narrative.
A narrative of a girl who got too drunk. Who wanted to have sex and acted lewdly while under the influence. Resulting in her having sex, something she was clearly after if you go by the comments of possible friends. We on the outside see everyone having fun, but only these boys are recording. It is difficult to watch when you understand what their intents are. Their betrayal of the trust Lilla had in them is wiped out when they plan to make “content” of Gergö sexually assaulting the unconscious Lilla. It is cruel and harrowing with Hartung showing us a mixture of the recording and from an outsiders view. Luckily there is nothing too graphic, but it remains distressing.
The release of all of these videos online forces Lilla to disappear from her friends and family home due to the sheer amount of online noise. FOMO is a rightful indictment to the current position of social media, and it is a scathing look at it. These characters talk about creating content and are immediately using their mobiles to record everything. They edit and manipulate content on the go. Creating gifs on the fly so when they put them on websites and private Facebook groups it can be shared immediately for everyone in their social group and as a result beyond due to the ability to share.
We watch as these groups of boy’s room around the city, filming people to humiliate homeless people (a situation that turns against them thanks to a passer-by). To even assaulting another woman. Putting her in a position of fragility and recording her so they can bribe her. This is a generation and a group who are acutely aware of what can damage a person’s emotional state but also damage their online reputation. They pick on the innocent worst off in our society and try to control it. FOMO is also an indictment of masculinity with these four and then three having no redeemable factors about them.
This raises the biggest issue present in FOMO. We are almost entirely following this group. They are as unlikeable characters as they come. Gergö is presented to us as our most sympathetic character, yet he is the one who carried out the heinous act, even if he was dared to.
He realises what his friends are truly like. Due to being expelled from school, it has given him a sharp awakening to what he has been doing. As his friends get drunk and continue their ways of tormenting anyone and everyone, Gergö just wants to find Lilla. His guilt has to override him and when he does find her. That conversation is made even more difficult for him. Yet, it has to be remembered what he did. He may be presented as flawed, and has “seen the light”, but he is as bad as his friends. He has just realised it before they have.
László as Lilla is devastating here. She starts of slightly timid and has a crush on Gergö, for her to then experience what she does is heartbreaking. Importantly she doesn’t know who it is due to the light of the camera and suddenness of the act. When we get to the third act, she has a powerful confrontation and she will be an actress to keep an eye on as she excels in the film.
FOMO uses smart direction choices here. At the start in the party scenes, everything seems a tad chaotic. The camera catches instances events in quick shots, we do not linger at all as everyone enjoys themselves. When we leave the party to the morning after, we have a complete 180 with shots lingering around the characters.
This is where Hartungs excels by changing the pace of the film when required as later on when the four are out looking for Lilla. The shots linger and then quick cuts and a party atmosphere returns when they are drinking again. We get the impression that these boys do not have full control, but the aggressive nature of the cuts also simplifies their intent. As one states, they want to meet Lilla, to bribe and force her to say nothing about what has happened. It is very impressive filmmaking for a debut feature director.
In an ideal world, FOMO would be a wakeup call to the younger generations (and millennials like myself) to make sure that this type of scenario is reduced. But as we know from our own experiences online, this is a trend and Lilla’s experience is something we are seeing more and more.
Hartung has created a memorable debut and while we are meant to be with our four for the majority of the film. So that we can see Gergö’s guilt and realisation grow about his actions. The sheer length of time with them becomes a difficult viewing experience. Happily, the third act brings us back in with Gergö and Lilla completing both their arcs.
FOMO is a bold film for a feature debut and one that showcases the worst in men and the consequences of social media abuse. This Hungarian picture is the perfect companion piece to the Finish film Force of Habit.
For more coverage of Raindance 2020 please check out our reviews below:
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