The Fare Explained- A Sci-Fi Love Story With Greek and Chinese Mythology Roots
Genre blender The Fare features a romantic myth with a modern twist all will enjoy.
What first presents as an ominous mystery becomes a story of star crossed lovers. D. C. Hamilton’s sophomore feature is a low budget sleeper that would be perfect for those looking to dip their toes in the genre pool without robots, time travel, or AI. In other words, a genre lover’s date night.
The film opens with cabbie Harris(Gino Anthony Pesi) as he drives his client Penny(Brinna Kelly) on a dark stretch of road. A disembodied gravelly voice gives information over an old fashioned CB radio. Harris is dressed in generically modern clothing, but his cab is from another era. This is the first clue things are not as they appear. He picks up his fare, Penny whom he has an instant rapport. Unfortunately, she disappears from the back of his cab before they arrive at her destination.
Unaware he is an unwitting participant, he initially makes small talk and drives. As time drags on he begins to suspect he is caught in a time warp of perpetual meetings. Caught in an endless cycle of hellos, light banter, and disappearances Harris becomes convinced something supernatural is causing the loop in time. Little by little his memories come back as his car and rider drive on.
The opening sequence is shot in black and white. The colorless texture feels vintage and tricks the viewer into seeing a time period that doesn’t quite fit. As Harris finally realizes what and who he and Penny are color seeps onto the screen, marking the awakening of his mind. Flashes of their previous trips assault his senses until the past collides with the present. Penny is not just another ride, she is his love. Used more as a plot device than manipulation the black and white color divides the film into before and after, just as the unfolding story does the same for the protagonists.
Despite a minuscule cast and mostly chamber piece set, The Fare keeps the viewer engaged, mostly because of the clear chemistry between Pesi and Kelly. Believably affectionate and beleaguered these are two people it is easy to cheer for. Little by little their tragic love affair unfolds. Neither is just the part they play, but a hopeful rumination on what it means to live and love. Bit players come and go in a poignant montage of time as secrets are revealed.
The story of The Fare is a tender re-imagining of several different myths and legends. Namely Persephone, The Ferry Man over the River Styx, and the stars Vega and Altair. Persephone from Greek Mythology was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter who Hades kidnapped and held in the Underworld. She was forced to live with him for 2/3 of each year. A variation on the legend tells of a pomegranate seed which is used to imprison the beautiful maiden forcing her to return to Hades every year. For fans of The Magicians, it is what marks Penny’s acceptance of his new life in the Underground Library. The four seasons and cyclical nature of agriculture are attributed to her. In The Fare, Penny is Persephone stuck returning to the Underworld each year with only moments of happiness.
Harris is the fated ferryman. Traditionally, the ferryman is an ill-tempered beast who brings recently deceased souls to the Underworld. In more modern versions he is cloaked in long dark robes and is a faceless, silent laborer. Hamilton’s vision of the ferryman is kind-hearted and attractive but fated to forever drive souls to their final resting place. One interesting thing to note, early on Harris loses his memory over and over after drinking something. This signifies the River Lethe the river of forgetfulness. The drink he swallows after each reset clouds his memory. He forgets everything that has come before. When he ultimately chooses to forgo the water he consciously chooses to remember who he is even if that means he will suffer as a result.
The next legend, that of Vega and Altair are the stars from which the term star-crossed lovers comes. This ancient Chinese legend of a lowly herder and a Goddess is one of sadness and loss. The two meet and fall in love only to have Vega’s mother separate them for eternity. An “us” versus “them” tale of the elite and the poor. Altair is a mortal, Vega is a God. Vega’s mother uses old magic to turn the river into the Milky Way and keep the two apart except for 1 day each year when they will pass by each other.
In another iteration, the doomed couple is Weaver Girl(Vega), the weaver of clouds, and the Herdsman(Altair) who tends the cattle of Heaven. These two lovers were turned into stars by the Gods and separated by the Milky Way so they would not neglect their duties. Every year on the seventh night of the seventh month they could meet for a brief moment in time. It’s a lovely but sad story of forbidden love. Like the legends, Harris and Penny are separated because of a relationship between the two. They choose to remember and suffer in order to experience a few moments of happiness each year. A sacrifice he chooses to make to allow him the scant bits of time they have together. It is a bittersweet reminder of the importance of love and life.
The Fare is a tender love story that is stylishly rendered and easy to enjoy. An attractive film that features interesting tight closeups and well-framed dialogue, it is a surprisingly easy movie to enjoy. Competent performances from the Pesi and Kelly help drive emotion and smart pacing reveals secrets at the best time.
This Twilight Zone reminiscent film is the best of the series stretched into a full-length feature. It is thought-provoking, emotional, and cautionary without being trite. While hardcore science fiction genre fans may have a hard time categorizing this as truly genre, there is enough fantasy to appeal to a wide range of tastes. The Fare is a hidden gem that explores the importance of love in life. It is available to stream on Apple TV and DVD now.
As the Television Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.