Virtual Sexuality

UK 1999

Reviewed by Melanie McGrath


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

West London, the present. 17-year-old Justine is desperate to lose her virginity and hopes Alex, the school stud, will assist. But Alex's attentions are focused on Hoover, the school vamp. Helped by her friends Fran and Chas, Justine sets up a date with Alex at a computer exposition but at the last moment Alex backs out to see Hoover. Justine goes to the expo anyway where she is talked into trying out a new makeover machine called Narcissus by its inventors Jason and Monica. Once inside the machine, Justine designs her perfect man on screen. During a sudden power cut the machine malfunctions and Justine is transmogrified into two people: herself with amnesia and her perfect man, who has her mind and memories. He names himself Jake.

Jake heads over to Chas' house to explain what has happened and moves in. Chas gives him advice on how to act like a man. Unaware that Jake is part of herself, Justine develops a crush on him. Hoover is also interested in the sexy new boy on the block. Monica and Jason are keen to track him down for scientific purposes.

Deflated by Jake's apparent lack of interest, Justine plots to sleep with Alex, hoping that it would make her more desirable to Jake. Appalled, Jake explains what happened in the Narcissus but minutes later Monica and Jason kidnap him. Justine and Chas rescue him and using the Narcissus, morph Jake back into Justine's body. Justine and Chas start dating and eventually have sex with each other.


Despite its misleadingly cerebral title, this fresh teen flick treads lightly while retaining a seriousness of purpose, a considerable triumph for a genre which so often devolves into grainy, self-important cool (Kids) or vacuous crudity (Porky's). Telling the story of girl whose perfect man (with her mind) comes to life via computer technology, Virtual Sexuality steers a visual course somewhere between the boldly coloured, cartoonish two-dimensionality of a John Waters enterprise - complete with self-reflexive asides and graphics - and the sassy, realism of such recent American teen products as Clueless and She's All That.

At the head of the film, protagonist Justine defines herself entirely in terms of her consumer choices, but the story goes on to explore her struggles to engage with a deeper identity. "Be the Justine you want to be, not the Justine you think you need to be," exhorts her friend. Our heroine's perfect man is her own animus but the gender switch allows for some unexpected comic twists as well as the more routine teen-pleasing knob and tit jokes. In one very funny scene, Jake disturbs Chas' sleep with his rhythmic hand action. Both the audience (at first) and Chas assume Jake is masturbating for the first time as a man until the camera tilts to reveal he's frantically polishing Chas' silver picture frame. Very solid performances from the cast keep the film buoyant throughout - Rupert Penry-Jones' camp, prancing, androgynous Adonis Jake deserves special mention.

There is a sexual playfulness and candour in Virtual Sexuality that is rare in British films which tend either to overplay sex or reduce it to a series of embarrassed and embarrassing jokes about body size. In going against this grain, what we have here is a very adult film, putting an ironic twist on the usual create-the-perfect-partner rubric by reversing the genders, marking this film out as truly of its time. That said, Virtual Sexuality doesn't shy away from more traditional equations. Egghead Monica is meant to be ugly as sin while Natasha Bell's alluring vamp Hoover (so called because she sucks all men towards her)is extremely dumb and very very blonde.

Tradition also creeps into Virtual Sexuality's rather absurd depiction of technology as a dangerous and magical zone of enormous and unpredictable tranformative power. Perhaps the generational gap between Hurran and screenwriter Nick Fisher (working from Chloe Rayban's novel) and his characters is too wide since the depiction of what is to most teenagers a fully integrated and unquestioned environment saturated with technology as something wild and dangerous will ring few bells for them. This is the 90s. Teens don't expect a literal deus ex machina to emerge magically from their gadgets. They just expect them to work.

Still, Virtual Sexuality is an ambitious project which treats such heavy-duty themes as narcissism, identity, sexual enfranchisment and fidelity without resorting to a heavy-duty harangue.


Christopher Figg
Nick Fisher
From the novel by
Chloe Rayban
Director of Photography
Brian Tufano
John Richards
Production Designer
Chris Edwards
Rupert Gregson-Williams
© Virtual Sexuality Productions, Ltd
Production Companies
The Bridge presents a Noel Gay Motion Picture Company production
Executive Producers
Kevin Loader
Jonathan Darby
Charles Armitage
Associate Producer
John Downes
Development Executive
Paul Stevens
Production Co-ordinator
Esther Rodewald
Production Manager
Ian Hickinbotham
Unit Manager
Simon Downes
Location Managers
John Bamford
Colin Plenty
Post-production/Visual Effects Supervisor
John Richards
2nd Unit Director
Terry Forrestal
Assistant Directors
Gareth Tandy
Rebecca Tucker
Tamana Bleasdale
2nd Unit:
Roger Simons
Ken Tuohy
Script Supervisor
Sam Donovan
Janey Fothergill
Jane Davies
Carrie Hilton
2nd Unit Lighting Cameraman
Robert Shipsey
Steadicam Operator
Roger Tooley
Digital Visual Effects
The Film Factory at VTR
Visual Effects Supervisor:
Andrew Fowler
Senior Digital Artist:
Matthew Twyford
Digital Artists:
Sally Clayton
David Sewell
Trevor Young
Film Optical Supervisor:
Peter Talbot
Film Optical Co-ordinator:
Zoe Cain
Graphic Designer:
Ben Heap
Sam Breach
Chris Petts
Jason McDonald
Richard Nelson
Mike Gilbert
Serena Cacciato
Inferno Artists:
Paul Round
Johnathan Wesley
Flame Artists:
Matt Butcher
James Adamson
Digital Visual Effects
General Screen Enterprises
Digital Effects Producer:
Craig Chandler
Digital Compositor:
Richard Orpin
Optical Cameraman:
Richard Clare
Senior Graphics Designer:
Janice Mordue
Rostrum Camera:
Darren De'ath
Special Effects Physical
Dave Beavis
Wire Effects
Kevin Welch
Art Director
Humphrey Bangham
Storyboard Artist
Jim Cornish
Costume Designer
Joanna Freedman
Chief Artist:
Juliana Mendes-Ebden
2nd Unit:
Mandy Gold
Julia Wilson
Chief Hairdresser
Linda Hayes
Adill Drai
Music Supervisor
Elliot Johnson
Music Co-ordination
Becky Bentham for
Air Edel Associates Ltd
Music Mixer
Cameron McBride
"I am a Tree" by Imani Coppola, Michael Mangini, performed by Imani Coppola; featuring sample from "Soul Kitchen" performed by The Doors; "Something for Me" by A. Whitmore; "This Life" by Saul Freeman, Nicola Hitchcock, performed by Mandalay; "Snow on a Hot Day" by/performed by Bertine Zetlitz; "No No No (Part 1)" by Vincent Herbert, Rob Fusari, M. Brown, C. Gaines, performed by Destiny's Child; "Still Waiting" by S. Turner, D. Johnson, Chris Cawte, J. Walker, performed by The Gutter Brothers; "Legend of a Cowgirl" by Imani Coppola, Michael Mangini, Donovan Leitch, performed by Imani Coppola; samples portions of the composition "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan Leitch; "Would You" by David Lowe, performed by Touch and Go; "Someone Like You" by Rod Williams, Guy E. Fletcher; "Lady Marmalade" by Bob Crewe, Kenny Nolan, performed by All Saints; "Live and Learn" by P. Turner, D. Johnson, Chris Cawte, J. Walker, A. Green, performed by The Gutter Brothers; "Come Baby Come" by K7, Joey Gardner, L. Sharpe, performed by K7; "Toy" by Moa, Eythor Arnalds, performed by Moa; "Karma and the Blizzard" by Imani Coppola, Michael Mangini, performed by Imani Coppola; "Flylife" by Constable, Ratcliffe, Buxton, performed by Basement Jaxx; "Delicious" by Kulay, Jeannie Oakman, performed by Kulay; "Come Here Boy" by/performed by Imogen Heap; "Human Touch" by/performed by Pocket Size; "Private Dancer" by Mark Knopfler; "Piano Concerto No 21" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; "Fly Away" by/performed by Poe
Sound Design
Andy Kennedy
Production Sound Mixer
John Midgley
Re-recording Mixer
John M. Hayward
Dialogue Editor
Gillian Dodders
Kevin Tayler
Footsteps Artists:
Andie Derrick
Peter Burgess
Kevin Tayler
Peter Baldock
Stunt Co-ordinator
Terry Forrestal
Laura Fraser
Rupert Penry-Jones
Luke De Lacey
Kieran O'Brien
Marcelle Duprey
Natasha Bell
Steve John Shepherd
Laura Macaulay
Roger Frost
Ruth Sheen
Laura Aikman
Ram John Holder
Amanda Holden
shoe shop assistant
Alan Westaway
William Osborne
sex shop assistant
Philip Bird
Justine's dad
Judith Scott
Stewart Harwood
Nicholas Pry
Alison Garland
scary nurse
Robert Oates
Caroline Chikezie
gushy assistant
Trish Bertram
Toby Cockerell
wiry lad
Keeley Gainey
Melinda Messenger
superbra girl
the boys
Jake Curran
James Daley
Monty Fromant
Martin Hutson
Joseph Kpobie
Peter McCabe
Ozdemir Mamodeally
Carl Pizzie
Del Synott
Freddie White
James D. White
the girls
Zoe Hodges
Preeya Kalidas
Samantha Levelle
Tracey Murphy
Emma Jane Pierson
Ania Sowinski
Ebony Thomas
Lynne Wilmot
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
8,305 feet
92 minutes 17 seconds
Dolby digital/SDDS
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011