The Collector: a moving story of outsiders in a post-apocalyptic police state dystopia

Ihsanul Huq, “The Collector” (2021)

A very moving story thanks to its lead actor Frank Collison, this short film revolves around a choice his character is forced to make in the post-apocalyptic dystopian world he lives in. Hal (Collison) lives in the outlands of the Republic of California, scavenging flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shores of the beach. He finds a damaged android (Andrea Nelson) among the sand dunes and brings her home. Home is a shack where he grows his own food and cares for his invalid wife Carol (Sarah Lilly), hooked up to a life-support machine as she is dying from an incurable disease. The machine is powered by batteries Hal obtains from a blackmarket dealer (Jonathen “Pantera” Wallace), as the government strictly rations energy and arrests and imprisons anyone caught stealing energy.

Hal powers up the android Mia on the batteries but finds from scanning her head that she is a mercenary wanted by the Republic of California authorities. Hal intends for Mia to help him care for his wife as home help. Mia comes to life but staying with Hal, even at half power as a care worker, will put both their lives in danger. Although Mia needs full power to be able to defend herself, let alone Hal and Carol, this would require using the batteries that Carol’s life-support system needs. Hal is faced with an unenviable choice, whether to risk losing Carol so that Mia can leave, and he remains safe; or to refuse to power Mia fully and risk his life, Carol’s life and Mia’s once the authorities inevitably track down Mia and come for them.

The action is very brisk, perhaps too much so, so that the time needed for character development and for Hal and Mia to develop a friendship is very short. A government agent (Ben Cunis) in pursuit of Mia arrives on the scene, killing the black-market dealer in cold blood and then following Hal back to the shack. How the rest of the film’s story develops depends entirely on how Hal resolves his dilemma in allowing either Carol or Mia to live.

Due to its tight budget the film’s style is very minimal, with the actors doing no more and no less than what the plot requires, yet Collison creates a very sympathetic character in the outsider Hal. Nelson does good work as the android prepared to sacrifice her life for both Carol and Hal. Even though the limitations of the film’s budget force the action into overdrive, the work that Collison and Nelson do in making their characters credible is very good. In making the decision that he does, Hal acknowledges that he will end up alone – but at the same time he frees others to pursue their destinies as they should. The film’s ending is very poignant while also opening up the possibility of a sequel that might blossom into a full-length movie or a television series.