The Immortalists Asks What If We Could Live Forever but Not Should We


Scientists Bill Andrews and Aubrey de Grey, the former a square-ish American ultramarathon runner, the latter a British decadent in the cult-leader mold, both believe aging and death to be a kind of humanitarian crisis in urgent need of addressing.

The Immortalists compares and contrasts their work in molecular biology toward the end of ensuring there need be no end to any single human life. Directors Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado present a study of two eccentrics without pushing too hard against their premise.

Should you find the prospect of immortality terrifying, as I do, the film has a vast philosophical hole at its center, and passes with only occasional spikes of interest. Both of the subjects are settled into childless middle age, each finding the specter of his own death beginning to crest behind that of his aging parents; neither seems to have considered much beyond the Peter Pan–ish will to live on, surrounded by loved ones.

This attitude, a cellular view of the world, and of human life, is nicely compressed in de Grey’s late observation, after it is revealed that his longtime partner grudgingly shares him with at least two other women, that eternal life will probably preclude monogamy.