DVD and VOD
WHAT if you could step through a mirror and visit other versions of the world? Would you explore these alternate Earths? Would you try to find a better home for yourself – in a world, perhaps, where a loved one hasn’t died?
Or, as happens in Parallel, Mexican director Isaac Ezban’s first English-language thriller, would you simply go around stealing?
Of the four young friends who discover a dimensional portal in the attic of their rental, only Devin (Aml Ameen) thinks it might be a means of personal salvation. As a boy, he flew into a rage at his fraudster father, who killed himself the next day. Now Devin is in search of a version of the world where his father lives, and the rift can be healed.
His friends, however, simply want to get rich. The four have been working together on a parking app called Meter Maid: an idea so uninteresting, I wonder if it is meant as an early comment on their lack of real talent.
Behind their mirror, through which they pass, Alice-fashion, into other versions of the world, time runs faster. For a moment, it seems that to get stupidly rich, all they have to do is bring back the winning lottery numbers from alternate realities. But the worlds they visit, though very similar, are different enough that the winning numbers don’t match up.
Is there a way to exploit these little differences? Screenwriter Scott Blaszak’s first feature fizzes with incidental invention as the friends explore the commercial and financial angles of their multiverse. Their solutions are tailored to character. In the end, Josh (Mark O’Brien), the group lightweight, goes chasing women across the multiverse. Meanwhile, failing artist Leena (Georgia King) fills portfolios with plagiarised pictures and Noel (Martin Wallström, effectively reprising his role in Mr Robot) steals the intellectual property of unwitting inventors. No spoilers about the end result of all this, but it is a catastrophe worth waiting for.
“Handed a world of infinite possibility, all the film’s characters can do is play out their failings”
Parallel is no masterpiece. Made on a shoestring, and boasting a silly and intrusive soundtrack, its fairly familiar premise depends on the sharpness of its ideas. Luckily, Blaszak knows what he is doing, and has given us characters who, while engaging enough, aren’t good people. Handed a world of infinite possibility, all they can do is play out their failings.
They aren’t even very curious. Bankrolled with money stolen from their “alt” selves, they consume, but they cannot create. Their cruelty is as devastating as it is casual. By bringing an alt Josh into our world, Noel destroys at least one innocent life. Then the alt Josh begins to mentally disintegrate, tormented by the tiny but ubiquitous differences between his world and ours.
Ezban’s direction is efficient, more than inspired. Those wondering what he could achieve on a bigger budget might not have too long to wait. He has been hired by Sony Pictures to direct the adaptation of Dan Simmons’s horror novel Summer of Night.
Meanwhile, Parallel is a well-constructed calling card. It is a film with heroes that are meant to be likeable, flawed as they are. Pulling its punches in this way gives the enterprise a curiously dated feel. I was reminded in particular of Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners and The Lost Boys. Not every movie has to plummet the depths of despair, of course. But I do wish Parallel‘s cast (Wallström in particular) had been handed more of an opportunity to chew up the set.
Simon also recommends…
Philip K. Dick
This alternate history traces the lives upended by intrigues between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, the post-war rulers of the southern and western United States.
The Butterfly Effect
Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber
Writer-directors Bress and Mackye Gruber (later of TV’s Kyle XY fame) created a low-budget mind-bender, as Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) travels through his memories to fix his past.
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