Anti Matter (alternately Worm) the first full-length feature film by director Keir Burrows. The story is about a bunch of students performing an experiment who discover the secret to teleportation. It’s a wormhole that they are able to build and use. One of the students finds herself unable to retain her memories post the experiment and goes through the struggle of finding answers. The film is low-budget so don’t expect too much. The central theme of the film is pretty interesting but the execution is not too tight. Give it a watch before you read further. Here’s the Anti Matter movie explained. Spoilers Ahead.
The film is stated to be a Science Fiction Noir take on Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps a few elements have a connect. Otherwise, there is none, so I’m not going to draw any parallels in this article. But do drop in a comment if there is something major that I may have missed.
Before we get to the plot, let’s quickly discuss a couple of topics relevant to the film.
What makes us .. us?
We wake up in the morning and are able to say that we exist. We are aware that we exist as an entity with thoughts, memories, and emotions. But we are made up of matter. We are a bunch of atoms put together in a way that gives us consciousness. We are self-aware. Our brains give us the ability to be self-aware. But our brain, too, is made up of atoms. The electrical signals within our brain help us think, store memories and feel. So the question is – “Is our consciousness simply the chemical reactions in our brain, or is there more to it?”. Or as many might put it – “Do we have a soul that gives us the definition of us?”. The scientific community doesn’t really approve of the soul and people of faith start their day with the thought of their soul. Well, the point is not to debate about it. The point is that there are two sides to the thought of “What makes us… us”.
This is a relatively simple thing to discuss. Teleportation is the process of disassembling a person or a thing down to the component matter – atoms. Then the disassembled matter is reassembled in a different location. In effect, you have a person disappearing from one place and appearing in another instantly. We’ve seen teleportation as part of various Science Fiction films and series. But here’s the catch. What happens if the teleporter has a fault? What if, after a person is disassembled, something goes wrong? Let’s assume a situation where instead of the atoms leaving the start location they get copied by mistake. Because there has been a fault, the start location simply re-assembles the original set of atoms back to the person. The end location uses the copied atoms to assemble the person. Now you have two people. It might easy to simply state that the person assembled from the copied atoms is the fake one and that the original person is back at the start point. But from their perspectives, they would both have their thoughts, memories, and feelings. Both of them would be self-aware. And both of them would feel that they are real and exist. If you walk up to the person assembled from the copied atoms and say “sorry there was a glitch in the machine, we need to destroy you”, the person is not going to say “yeah, sure, go for it”. This takes us back to the previous topic, and the question – “when atoms are copied over, does the consciousness get copied over too?”.
The film deals with just this.
Two students, Ana and Nate are conducting an experiment with electrons. This is primarily Ana’s research and Nate is working with her on this. Ana is able to use her experiment to make an electron disappear. An electron is a small particle with charge and a mass within an atom. The flow of electricity is basically the flow of free electrons. Ana doesn’t know where the electron is going but Ana is able to consistently achieve the output.
So they decide they want to do this to an entire atom. Which is still small but needs more computation power. Ana wants to try a whole molecule. A molecule contains multiple atoms. She feels that she will be able to trace where a molecule is going. They approach another student – Liv who knows how to get more computation from a pool of computers. Liv suggests hacking (using a programmatic worm) into all the computers in the school network and use them. It’s illegal, but they go for it.
Outside, there is a group of people who are protesting against animal testing. The lab engages in some amounts of animal testing looks like.
Hack, Test, Repeat
The trio hack the school network and begin work. Eventually, they are able to make larger objects (like marbles) disappear. Then they work on setting a destination for these objects. So for a Rubik’s cube, they set an end destination. The cube disappears from its start location and appears in its end location. They have achieved teleportation through a wormhole. A wormhole is usually a shortcut in space and time. In this movie, it’s a shortcut through space. The cube goes through a wormhole and appears on the other side. The object is not disassembled in this case. The entire object is pulled through the wormhole faster than the speed of light. Hence it appears that the object has moved from one point to the other instantly.
Next, they try and teleport living things. They try plants and then a caterpillar which all seem to end up fine on the other side. They also test with Liv’s grandmother’s cat. The cat too is fine. They check to see cellular mutation or molecular decay in the specimen. They don’t find any issues. DNA, RNA are identical before and after teleporting.
Ana and Nate go out for dinner. They have a good evening where she shows him a magic trick with a coin. This scene is to show the chemistry between Nate and Ana.
Soon, they are able to create a small stable wormhole. Liv throws an object through it which comes falling down on Ana. So far, the wormholes have been opening up just long enough for the objects to go through.
The team looks to demo their findings and get funding. Nate uses his father’s help to get patents applied (in Ana’s name) for what they have found. Just then, a patch is released by Microsoft that will shut their worm down. Which means they will lose computation from all the hacked in computers after a day. They are now in a hurry to demonstrate something soon to get that funding.
So they decide one of them has to go through. They draw matches to decide which who is going through the teleporter. It happens to be Ana. They prepare to send her through. Just before she does, Nate confesses his love for her and gives her a kiss. Nate has a small moment of doubt. The doubt is based on what we discussed above. Are humans merely a collection of atoms that amount to their mass or is there something else that makes us.. us? He brushes this doubt aside and they proceed.
Ana goes through the wormhole. After this, we are not shown what happens until the end. Everything is shown as glimpses through flashback sequences. This is done to make the audience feel as lost as Ana does. But for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to take you through the plot linearly.
Let’s take a step back and look at the kind of person Ana is. She’s introduced to be a warm person who is very connected to her mother. She cherishes her memories and loves spending time talking to her mother and sharing details with her. She’s cautious about things and doesn’t jump to conclusions. It’s important to know this for the things to follow.
Ana goes through the wormhole and appears a few feet in front of where she starts. It’s a success and everyone celebrates. But because the wormhole is open for too long, the gravity field distorts their readings. So they need to repeat the jump through the wormhole with it closing the nanosecond Ana comes through. This will ensure their readings are accurate.
The assumption the team makes is that soon as Ana’s mass comes through, the teleportation is complete. So they use a weighing scale. They connect the weighing scale to the generator soon as it has a mass input. They try again. Ana goes through the wormhole and onto the weighing scale and that instant the generator is shut off. But the team notices another Ana standing at the starting point who faints. We’re shown this scene as a video playback towards the end.
What’s with the two Ana’s?
So here’s the thing the movie theorizes. Humans are comprised of matter and light. The light part of us can be equated to the soul. It has mass but it’s insignificant. When Ana goes through the wormhole, she reaches the other end faster than the speed of light. And her weight on the weighing scale cuts off the power to the generator. Her “light” gets left behind. What does this mean? This means there are two Ana’s. One with her mass and atoms intact with her memories and abilities as a regular human to live on – we’ll call her Ana-matter. The other who is made up of light, a quantum anomaly who can’t make new memories, eat, drink or sleep well – we’ll call her Ana-light. Ana-light can think and feel. She has self-awareness and a consciousness. So does Ana-matter. However, in this case, since Ana-light is made up of light, the team is quick to deem her the anomaly. They don’t question Ana-matter to be missing something. In fact, Ana even mentions this in the end. But Nate and Liv go with the science of it. Ana-Matter can make new memories and she has mass, hence she’s the real Ana.
Ana-light collapses when she get’s separated from Ana. Ana-matter, Liv, and Nate realize that Ana-light can’t make memories, she keeps forgetting every new thing that happens. We aren’t shown what happens the days just after the incident. But we do know that the team finds it difficult to deal with Ana-light given she forgets everything. They even try to keep her in the storeroom to keep her alive. But because she forgets, she thinks she’s being attacked and has a breakdown. Eventually, Ana-matter moves into the storeroom and they let Ana-light go out and live as Ana. They feel this to be far more manageable. They also start working towards a solution on what needs to be done with Ana-light.
Ana in her room
The story follows Ana-light after a few days. She wakes up disoriented in her room. She makes her way to the lab. She runs into James, one of the protesters. She tells James that she supports his cause but she’s not feeling too well. She meets with Liv and Nate. They tell Ana-light that they have lost computing capacity and are back to testing with atoms. They tell Ana-light that she was going to do some tests, obviously, Ana-light can’t remember.
We are shown a scene where Ana is talking to her mother. Her mom is moving from her current home. She says she has found some photos from long back. But Ana says “No, mom. Just throw it away, or give it to charity”. She also goes on to say “I told you, everything has to fit in a small trunk. Well, that’s the point of a small trunk”. This Ana doesn’t really connect that well to her old memories. I suspect that this is Ana-matter. Also, she has the flu, and a virus can’t really attack something made of light. Ana’s character is warm, Ana-matter comes across more calculating and focused on efficiency. She’s able to make new memories but there is something missing in her. Perhaps empathy.
The story continues to follows Ana-light. She goes back home to notice that her house is trashed. Ana-matter in an ape mask is there with all of the science work and ID in a backpack. A thing to notice here is Ana-matter is shown to be in no hurry. She toys with Ana-light. Perhaps she’s fascinated by seeing her replica. They two fight and a chase ensues. Ana-matter gains the upper hand pushes Ana-light down in an alley and leaves with the bag.
Ana-light wakes up and heads home. She talks to her mom and tells her that her room was burgled. She’s also upset that some photos were gone too. Ana-light is connected to her past memories and is emotional about them.
When Ana-light tells Nate about the robbery, he doesn’t react very seriously. He knows it was Ana-matter. He simply says they’ll not make sense of the stolen docs. Ana-light also says that she’s unable to remember anything after the experiment. She senses that something went wrong. Nate says nothing went wrong. He just changes the subject.
Next day, everyone in the university gets an email saying that the worm was traced to the university. There is going to be an investigation as the hacking is classified as Cyber Terrorism. The worm spreads through hundreds of millions of computers. Ana-light starts keeping a little notebook and begins writing down things she needs to remember. They distract Ana-light with doing the tests again. Ana-light notices that the storeroom is locked. She asks why it is locked and that it has never been locked. For obvious reasons, Ana-starts getting paranoid. She specifically calls it “her project” when Nate says “our project”. Nate changes the subject to Ana-light’s lunch and tells her to go get some sleep.
She leaves. She sees someone with the ape mask and then realizes that multiple people are wearing it as part of the protest. She runs into James again. James threatens Ana-light about her experiments with absolutely no knowledge of what happens in the lab. He has assumed that animals are being tested on. James is being an asshole at this point.
Later, Ana-light breaks into the lab and finds the weighing scale. There are lots of speculation on why the negative weight. I’ll just attribute it to the error in the initial setting. For sending Ana through, they only needed mass on the scale, they didn’t care for the value of that mass. So, as a result, they didn’t bother with the value of the initial setting. So I’ll choose to ignore this -0.2kg and move on. Ana-light has no idea what the weighing scale is doing as part of the experiment setup. Nate calls her. Tells her that they should meet for dinner and asks her to write it down.
Dinner with Nate
At dinner, Ana-light asks Nate about what is going on. He doesn’t tell her the details. Nate tells her that she has an MRI Scan coming up in two weeks because she was hit. He lies to her saying that her memory problem is because she was hit in the alley. Ana-light feels that it was because of the wormhole. Nate tries to convince her that it’s not the case. He also mentions that this particular conversation she has already had with Nate and Liv. Nate urges Ana-light to stop investigating. He says this because the school is already being investigated for the cybercrime and they don’t want Ana-light screwing up anything for them. Nate brings up a 2-year old story when he once trusted Ana, now he wants Ana-light to trust him and stop investigating. He wants her to write it down in her notes. Ana-light asks Nate to kiss her, he doesn’t. He doesn’t because he’s in love with Ana-matter. According to him Ana-light is the anomaly and he’s in a relationship with Ana-matter and he sees them as two distinct people. Nate’s being a nice guy.
Next day, Ana-light goes back to the lab and asks for her camcorder. She wants to see what actually happened during the experiment. Nate tells her that it’s at his place as he’s copying the videos onto his computer at home. Ana-light starts freaking out when Nate asks how her mother is. She’s getting increasingly paranoid. Just then all the students are called in for a briefing.
The cyber investigator meets with them and explains the worm has affected hundreds of millions of computers. This is why the department is being investigated. Stovington is the lead investigator.
Teleport the Soul?
Ana-light, Liv, and Nate meet to discuss how not to get caught. They worry what Ana-light might say something. Ana-light is now paranoid that her work is being stolen from her and asks where the patents are. Nate assures that they are being done in Ana’s name. Ana-light freaks out again and remembers what Nate says about teleportation only takes matter through. Ana-light feels that her soul was left behind. Little does she know that she is the “light” that got left behind.
Ana-light calls her mom. Her mom says “twice in a day, lucky me”. Ana-matter has called her mother once in the morning. Ana-matter tells her mother not to talk unless she hears a specific password. Only Ana-matter knows this password. Ana-light is clueless about this so her mom hangs up. Another point to note here is how Ana-matter has provided a machine like set up to talk to her mother. Ana’s character would not have done something like this. Ana-light says “You’re my mom. I’m not giving you a password to talk to you”. Here again, you can see a difference in the characteristics of Ana-light and Ana-matter. The film is trying to show us that Ana-matter is not “all Ana”. She’s missing a portion of the original Ana. That portion is Ana-light.
Weight of Memories
Ana-light begins to do some research on brain damage. She thinks she sees Nate but turns out to be some other lady. They have an interesting discussion. Does human memory have weight? If a human mind were to be wiped of all memories, would it weigh lesser? But they conclude that memories are a bunch of electrical signals. Just like an empty battery weighs the same as a full battery, the brain too, should not have a change in mass.
Ana-light continues to grow more paranoid about things around her. She gets a maintenance guy to open the storeroom. The maintenance guy shows up and tells her that he has already given a key before. He’s actually given the key to Ana-matter, she’s inside the storeroom. Ana-light gets annoyed and leaves. Outside, she’s followed and taken in for questioning by Stovington. He tries to act smart to get Ana-light to confess that the worm was hers. Ana says she’s a chemist and not a programmer, shuts him up, and leaves.
Possible Plot Hole
James and his gang of animal activists begin to bully Ana-light for the animal testing they have assumed she’s up to. Ana-light loses her notes. She goes to Liv’s grandma’s place and steals the gun from there. Nate is following her and calls her asking her to come back to the lab. Instead, she breaks into Nate’s home. She wanders into his bedroom where she sees a glimpse of Liv making out with Nate. The reality is that Ana-matter and Nate make love. How this memory transfers from Ana-matter to Ana-light is unknown. This incident happens after the experiment. Perhaps, soon as Ana-matter and Ana-light are separated they do have some amount of memory shared between them. This could also explain why Ana-matter is crying about the situation when in bed with Nate. But eventually, the memory sharing stops. Ana-light goes through the video and notices that when Ana goes through the wormhole, there is a small fraction of a moment when there are two Ana’s. One at the start point, the other and the endpoint. Here’s a big plot-hole. The teleportation happens at light speed and higher. Somehow a camcorder with a max of 120 frames per second is able to distinctly capture events happening at light speed. Ideally, this would be a blur.
Truth about Ana
Nate comes home. He tells Ana-light that they’ve already explained to her what went wrong with the experiment multiple times but she keeps forgetting. He urges that she goes back to the lab with him. Ana-light retaliates and fires at Nate’s neck. Lucky for him, it’s a flesh wound. Ana-light heads to the lab all dazed and confused with what she saw in the video. She strongly feels she’s lost her soul and that is why she can’t remember anything. Liv spots her and takes her into the lab. They begin explaining what happened. That the travel through the wormhole happens faster than the speed of light. That the second time she went through, they shut the wormhole soon as she went through. This didn’t give enough time her “light” to go through. The video confirms this with two Ana’s. They say that they have shown this multiple times to Ana-light before. But she’s forgotten it over and over. Ana-light now thinks that she’s a clone.
The reality is worse than that. She’s not regular “matter”. She’s made of light. She sees her blood sample through a microscope. She doesn’t see anything. She’s an anomaly. Liv is visibly frustrated trying to explain to Ana-light over and over. Liv is pissed off that she’s trying to help and Ana-light is trying to shoot her.
Ana-light breaks down saying that she can think and she has emotions. How can she not be real? They explain that since she’s made of light, she’s not eating or making any memories. They can’t understand it, but based on the definition of what “real” is, an object made of matter, they tell her that she’s not real. Ana-matter appears from the storeroom and apologizes for pushing Ana-light in the alley. Ana-matter says that she was very scared that day. Nate says that Ana-matter has mass therefore she exists and she is the real Ana. Ana-Light tells Ana-matter that she’s missing her soul. Ana-matter says that she remembers what she does and was pulled through and that is enough for her to be real.
They tell Ana-light that the algorithm has been rewritten and that she has to go through the machine again. But when Ana-light asks them where will she go, they say – nowhere. Essentially they plan to simply destroy Ana-light as they consider her an anomaly and needs to be removed. Ana-light says that they want to kill her. Ana-matter says that Ana-light is not alive to kill. Ana-light calls her mom and tells her how much she loves her. Ana’s mom has sent a package. It’s a tape of an old memory. An old recording where Ana is playing the piano, this cassette continues to play on in the background. Ana-matter takes the phone and talks to her mom, abruptly cutting her off saying she’s listening to the tape and that she will call tomorrow.
Ana-light tries to justify that she too is real because she has all of these memories. Ana-matter simply says that those memories are hers and not Ana-lights. Ana-light can’t make any new memory. Nate tells Ana-light that they’ve tried keeping her in the storeroom but then she would forget and her herself and them.
The two Ana’s have one last conversation. Ana-light agrees to be destroyed. She says her byes. Nate finds a moment where he wants to kiss Ana-light. Perhaps for that short second, he connects Ana’s empathy and not just the mass and memories. Ana-light stops him though. Ana-light is sent through the wormhole. She’s deleted.
The Ending Explained
Nate says they should shut the project down after what has happened. Ana-matter says no. Liv agrees. Ana-matter says “Do we outlaw cars because people crash? Or electricity because it electrocutes? I have the MRI on Thursday, that’ll give us some closure. Then we press ahead. It’s called progress. Did we really imagine there weren’t gonna be any teething issues?”. Ana-matter seems unaffected by the fact that they have just destroyed a being with thoughts and emotions. She brushes it off as “teething issues”. She’s only focused on the “progress”. When it comes to the ongoing investigation, she suggests that they can pin it on James, the guy from animal rights protesting outside. James may be an asshole, but pinning the hacking of 800 million computers will make him rot in jail all his life. Again, Ana wouldn’t suggest such a thing but Ana-matter doesn’t care.
Nate and Liv are considering this and Ana-matter quickly distracts them with conversations about further testing, money, funding, and all the cool shit they are about to do. While she says this she demonstrates a quick ball trick which she makes disappear by switching it in her hands. The ball trick is achieved by distraction. This is indicative that Ana-matter is using distraction to get things back to the way she needs it to be. She doesn’t want to have Nate or Liv ponder further on what they have done. That they have destroyed a person just because Ana-light didn’t fit their scientific definition of “real”. Ana-matter quickly states that she is “starving” and that they should go out to eat. Again, she’s reminding Liv and Nate that she’s the real one because she feels hunger. She’s just awfully cheerful.
After they leave, the music running in the tape comes to an end. The old recording of Ana playing the piano finishes. Ana’s mother says “What a clever sticks you are. You were brilliant. Now, this is the best part. We can go back and listen to it again, and again if we want”. We are shown just moments before, Ana-light bonds very emotionally with this memory. This recording means nothing to Nate and Liv. But even Ana-matter doesn’t care to pay any attention to the tape for it’s been playing all the while. She ignores it as the memory and its emotions mean little to Ana-matter.
In conclusion, the film tells us this. Ana going through the wormhole split her up into two parts. Ana-matter and Ana-light. Nate and Liv conclude that Ana-matter is real because she has mass and memories. However, the real Ana can be brought back only if Ana-matter and Ana-light were combined to become one again. But they don’t do that. Nate and Liv, with the guidance of Ana-matter, find a way to destroy Ana-light.
The film ends with the caterpillar inside its cocoon fluttering. This shows the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly. This shot indicates the metamorphosis of Ana into Ana-matter, the being without her “light”.