The Entire History of You
|"The Entire History of You"|
|Black Mirror episode|
Ffion (Jodie Whittaker, right) uses her "grain" to play back memories in front of her eyes.
|Episode no.||Series 1|
|Directed by||Brian Welsh|
|Written by||Jesse Armstrong|
|Featured music||Original Score by|
|Original air date||18 December 2011|
|Running time||44 minutes|
"The Entire History of You" is the third and final episode of the first series of British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by the creator of Peep Show and Fresh Meat, Jesse Armstrong, making it the only episode of the series not written or co-written by creator and showrunner Charlie Brooker. It was directed by Brian Welsh, and first aired on Channel 4 on 18 December 2011.
The episode, set in an alternative reality where most people have "grains" recording everything they do, see, or hear, and allowing them to play back their memories in front of their eyes or on a screen, tells the story of Liam (Toby Kebbell), a man who starts suspecting that his wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) might have had an affair.
"The Entire History of You" received positive reviews. In 2013, Robert Downey Jr. optioned the episode to potentially be made into a film by Warner Bros. and his own production company Team Downey.
Young lawyer Liam Foxwell (Toby Kebbell) leaves a work appraisal that he felt went poorly. He belongs to a portion of the society that has implanted a "Grain" behind their ear, recording everything they see and hear. Using a remote, a user can perform a "re-do", playing back their memories directly to their eye or to a video monitor. While returning home, he repeatedly watches the re-do of the appraisal, and is troubled by a seemingly insincere phrase from his employer.
Later that evening, Liam meets his wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) at a dinner party with friends and finds her talking to a man he does not recognise—Jonas (Tom Cullen). As the party continues, Liam becomes concerned that Ffion seems fond of Jonas, laughing at his crude jokes. When Liam and Ffion return home, he goads her into talking more about her history with Jonas. She admits that she used to be in a relationship with him before meeting Liam, who finds that Ffion's accounts regarding the length of their relationship are inconsistent, so he becomes paranoid. The conversation turns heated and they get into a fight. Eventually, Liam backs down and apologises to his wife. They proceed to have sex, both of them watching re-dos of previous and more intimate sexual encounters.
Afterward, Liam leaves the bedroom and watches re-dos of the party to scrutinise Jonas' behaviour, while drinking heavily. By morning, when Ffion comes downstairs, Liam drunkenly demands more answers from her about Jonas. Ffion refuses to answer and returns to bed, while Liam leaves for Jonas' home and physically demands he erase memories of Ffion from his Grain or he will forcefully remove it, which could lead to vision and brain damage. Jonas complies, relaying the erasure process on a video monitor. Liam returns home, but crashes his car drunkenly into a tree and passes out. Regaining consciousness, Liam replays the last few memories before the crash to figure out what happened, surprisingly discovering that Jonas had a memory of sex with Ffion about 18 months ago during Jonas' Grain erasure, near the same time that she conceived her daughter, Jodie.
He angrily returns home and confronts Ffion about it. She admits she and Jonas had sex, after Liam had temporarily walked out after a fight, but they had used a condom and Liam must be Jodie's father. Liam demands she show him the re-do of the event to prove that, but Ffion claims she deleted it. Liam becomes more hostile, demanding she show him the blank space on the "grain" where she erased it. She reveals the re-do she had kept from 18 months ago and plays it, which verifies that they had unprotected sex and implies that Jonas is the father.
Sometime later, Liam walks around his empty house, watching re-dos of happier moments with Ffion and Jodie. Liam goes to his bathroom and uses a razor blade to cut out the Grain from behind his ear, a flurry of memories flooding his consciousness before the screen cuts to black.
Conception and writing
"The Entire History of You" was written by Jesse Armstrong, making it the only episode of series 1 in which series creator Charlie Brooker did not have a writing credit. Executive producer Annabel Jones says that they were looking for a satirical writer whose stories "still have meat". Armstrong was a sitcom writer, best known for co-creating Peep Show, which uses point-of-view shots, and had met Brooker several times previously. Armstrong had independently been considering the exponential growth of memory capacity in computers, and pitched an idea relating to the importance of "being able to forget things" in relationships.
The episode's first draft was too long; Brooker conceived of several consequences of the Grain such as people going to the cinema to have affairs as their Grains were turned off for copyright law reasons. The story was scaled down to focus on a "domestic bubble".
Casting and filming
Brian Welsh was hired as director, based on the recommendation of producer Barney Reisz. Welsh had little industry experience; he focused on Toby's performance and the exploration of jealousy. Scenes were filmed with different intonations and improvisation.
Toby Kebbell stars as Liam Foxwell, while Jodie Whittaker was cast as his wife Ffion. Whittaker was hired immediately following her audition. Casting director Shaheen Baig comments that the pair are similar actors, as both are "very emotionally open" but "subtle and complex". Between takes, Kebbell would remain focused and the two were given notes privately by Welsh, so they each did not know how the other was going to act.
The memory technology is known as a Grain as it is the size of a grain of rice. The characters control it with a small circular remote that the crew called a "pebble". Production designer Joel Collins designed the Grain app to resemble tree rings. To distance the episode from science fiction, Collins used materials like stone, wood and metal. The episode is set in 2050 and has a "mid-century" feel based on 1950. It uses point-of-view shots to show the characters' memories.
The sex scene between Liam and Ffion was originally conceived as the characters having sex while watching an earlier sexual encounter on the bedroom television. Due to logistical difficulties, the characters instead watch the footage replayed in their pupils, which have the visual effect of being "milked out". Brooker describes the scene as feeling "downright haunting", whereas the first incarnation was "amusing and a bit sad".
During post-production, a certain combination of takes led Liam to be unlikeable, so there was a focus in the final edit of scenes where Liam was funnier. Noting that some fans interpret that Liam killed Ffion or that the child is not Liam's, Brooker says that Ffion has moved out of the house with her child, whose biological father is Liam.
Armstrong and Whittaker both sympathise with Liam to a limited extent. Armstrong describes the technology as something that enabled Liam's pre-existing jealous tendencies. Brooker calls Liam "a weak, frightened, flawed person" who acts as "a bit of a bully" towards his wife, but notes that this all stems from insecurity. Jones calls Liam "obviously obsessive" but comments that him ripping the Grain out may be a moment of "slight redemption". Brooker comments that if there is a moral, it is that Liam "shouldn't have gone looking for something that was only going to upset him".
The A.V. Club rated the episode an A-, concluding: "[A]s a creepy, up-to-date parable that still tells a tale as old as time, 'The Entire History of You' is pretty outstanding. It builds to a climax the audience may well have predicted (Liam forces Ffion to show him her most recent encounter with Jonas), but we are smartly spared from seeing. Every time a character plays back something on their grain, their eyes glow dully as the images are accessed, giving them a demonic look. I'm sure that was an intentional decision." Den of Geek said: "As is often the case in science fiction, 'The Entire History Of You' explores the pitfalls of future technology. Given our current appetite for sharing carefully selected chunks of our personal lives on the Internet, the idea of people in the future recording and sharing memories isn't too much of a stretch, and the way the episode depicts it is quite convincing, and extremely eerie." The Daily Telegraph gave the episode 3 out of 5 stars, and wrote: "This was the least effective of the Black Mirror dramas, because the technological element wasn't so crucial to the trajectory of the story. Jealous people will always find ways to destroy their relationships without the recourse to memory databanks." Metro gave the episode an A, writing: "Tonight's final episode of Black Mirror however left me sitting in front of an appropriately black screen with the expression of a man who has just witnessed the murder of an entire litter of kittens."
- Child, Ben (12 February 2013). "Robert Downey Jr to turn episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror into film". The Guardian. London.
- Brooker, Charlie; Jones, Annabel; Arnopp, Jason (November 2018). "The Entire History of You". Inside Black Mirror. New York City: Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 9781984823489.
- "Review: Black Mirror: "The Entire History Of You'". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "Black Mirror episode 3 review: The Entire History Of You". Den of Geek. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "Black Mirror: The Entire History of You, Channel 4, review". Telegraph.co.uk. 18 December 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "Black Mirror envisaged a world where your thoughts are not your own". Metro. Retrieved 17 October 2014.