Odds On is an example of how online theater has grown in recent years. Dante Or Die’s interactive production is both for and about the virtual world, emphasizing its addictions, using film techniques and game aesthetics.
Written and directed by Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan, it seems whimsical at first: we choose a username and avatar before clicking to spin the reels in a video game. It’s a meaningful way to get into the story of Felicity (Fiona Watson), a retired GP who slowly becomes addicted to an online game of chance. We see her in her final days at the office followed by a new life at home, caring for her grandson, Noah (Oshy Fuller), while her son (Elan James) and daughter (Bianca Stephens) s are working in the background or calling for Zoom calls.
All the while, a game called Pearls of Fortune is superimposed on the screen to suggest that he’s ever-present in Felicity’s life, her little Calypso rhythm accompanying everything she does. We see how gambling becomes a casual yet compulsive form of gambling, with a ticker at the top of our screens capturing the points she has scored and the amount of money she has won or lost.
Shot in various locations using an iPhone and running for 30 minutes, it feels tailor-made for a generation of Candy Crushers with a toned down attention span. Yet it packs a punch far beyond its bite-sized script, in part due to the immersive nature of Felicity’s acting, and also the animated interludes (directed and edited by John Brannoch ) used to accentuate the emotional highs and lows it brings.
As Felicity becomes more and more addicted, she falls into the game itself, transforming into her octopus avatar. It has a cute and heartwarming Finding Nemo quality, but also shows the insidious ease with which the stakes are raised in online games, and its numbing appeal to Felicity, who is played by Watson with convincing vulnerability.
There’s a particularly powerful moment when she describes how upset and confused her retirement has been in a conversation with her husband, Joel (Maynard Eziashi), who turns into an animated dolphin as she speaks. It takes him a while to realize that this is part of his fantasy world and that confiding in him about his stealth game is just wishful thinking.
The animations and haunting soundtrack – composed by Yaniv Fridel and Ofer (OJ) Shabi, with sound design by Ben Kelly – have a kind of naive power to them and the film’s final beautiful aerial view of sea waves and open sky gives us hope for Felicity while leaving the story open.