Some movies come out at a time that makes them more socially relevant than anyone could have imagined when they started making the film. Millennium Bugs, a youth driven Comedy, is one of those stories. Millennium Bugs follows two friends, Kelly, played by Katy Erin and Michael Lovato as Miguel, while they struggle to find their place in the world, all during the Y2K panic that swept the globe.
If you are too young to recall Y2K, that was a fear that technology systems everywhere would collapse at the end of 1999 due to computers not accounting for all four digits of the year. The months leading up to New Years 2000 were fraught with hoarding, doomsday planning and apocalyptic projections. Water, canned goods and toilet paper were flying off the shelves while people faced the unknown. Sound familiar?
The initial release of Millennium Bugs was not without a strong sense of irony. The movie was set to premier at the South By Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) in 2020. That festival was one of the first major events to be canceled in light of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Well that is the background, now for the movie itself.
Millennium Bugs is an apt and unflinching love letter to the teen movies of the 80’s and 90’s. Think Empire Records, SLC Punk, Clerks, Can’t Hardly Wait and The Breakfast Club. The style, set design, neon lighting and overall tone fits this point in history like a glove. For those who lived it, this is a time capsule worth opening. These are the days of Compact Discs, Zima and AOL messenger. Popular songs of the time period such as Misery by Soul Asylum serve as pointed needle drops as well.
What is brilliant about this story is how the feelings surrounding the Y2K scare are analogous to the coming of age struggles our two leads are going through. Kelly is a young woman still grieving the death of her parents. She has drowned her sorrows in alcohol for years and just found out all of her inheritance has run up. Miguel, is an educated Latin American male, a son of two immigrant parents who are devastated by his dream of being a professional stand up comedian. This theme extends to the title as well, Millennium Bugs can refer to these nebulous computer glitches everyone is worried about, but it also represents our two free spirited protagonists.
In an early scene we are pleasantly reminded of what life in the 90’s was like. Kelly drops by to visit Miguel at the video store he works at. For those too young to remember, long before digital video platforms, back when “streaming” must have meant something else, people went to video stores and could search through aisles filled with movies on DVD to rent. Sadly, physical media is only a novelty for film collectors these days, but in the 90’s, this was a family institution. This scene was a slight nod to Kevin Smith’s Clerks, but was also a great introduction to this setting and our characters.
Kelly and Miguel have to overcome many obstacles over the course of the last few days of the millennia. I will not spoil it by giving details, but I will say plenty of scenes will surprise you with the unpredictable directions this story takes. Katy Erin as Kelly is a spontaneous jolt of rage, under a capped reservoir of emotion just dying to get out. Miguel is a voice of reason who finds himself along for the ride, for better or worse. Both actors deliver raw, honest performances that will remind you of your glory days and the true value of friendship.
The chemistry between these two held the story together, as we take this bitter sweet journey with them. While Katy Erin and Michael Lovato have past credits, Millennium Bugs feels like a breakthrough role for them. Millennium Bugs was written and directed by Alejandro Montoya Marín. This is the follow up to his first feature Monday, which I reviewed here for OCmoviereviews. This marks a big step forward for this filmmaker. With a solid execution and fresh voice, Alejandro Montoya Marín is a filmmaker to look out for.
The pace of this movie is fast, in keeping with its urgent subject matter. No time wasted, but plenty regrets for our youth. Millennium Bugs is a bold indie movie not meant for everybody, but will speak volumes to many. I have to admit, this movie and what these characters are going through felt very relevant to me. So who is the ideal audience for Millennium Bugs? In the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions, a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal….. does that answer your question?