About a week ago I got the chance to see an interesting independent feature film called Parallax, written an directed by Graham Nolte, and produced by Tommy Stackhouse. The film is set in 1987 and chronicles the journey of a man obsessed with the idea of creating an alternate version of the Internet as we know it today. As a result of his obsession, becoming completely dedicating to this cause, he isolates himself more and more as he pushes everyone around him away.
The first thing that struck me about Parallax was that it deals with a bunch of very complex ideas, but manages to convey these simply through dialogue. It’s easy to fall asleep when nerds start their computer-speak, but I remained fully awake throughout the film.
This exposition is most prevalent when our protagonist Abbot (played by Michael Kelberg) explains his idea to others, and is quite effective as it makes sense from a narrative perspective because his goal is to get people interested, involved and invested in the process.
There are many screens in the film, and while at first I thought this was just a motif, it’s not so much a motif as it is there for practical use. I would say that it goes a step further to provide commentary on how often we’re actually surrounded by screens on a daily basis. In our dwellings and beyond.
The way the film frames the introduction of new technology does an amazing job of mirroring how we do it in real life: first the unawareness and disinterest, then the resistance, then the early adopters get involved, and finally everyone jumps on board. And before we realize it, the absurd has become the norm, and we barely pause to feel ashamed about the disdain we expressed before.
I found Mannix to be a fairly annoying character, with an addiction to adverts I couldn’t quite relate to. I imagine he’s a metahor for something, but this character was not on my good side. On the other hand, this utter madness was portrayed really well, in all its manic (Mannix) glory, by actor Robb Stech.
My favourite character was Finbar Whalen, played by Phillipe Simon. My interpretation of this character was that he is a voice of reason to our protagonist. More than a friend, he’s this positive presence who supports Abbot in his endeavours. He’s the last voice of reason trying to save Abott from the abyss, but also just a conversational voice to make the journey more colourful. Overall a fun character, and I’m glad he got a happy ending.
Cinematographer Chad Leto does an amazing job with his composition, oscillating between very deliberate, mechanical shots, and more fluid, organic ones. Editor Sara Hopman also deserves credit for her work in arranging this detail in a fashion that captures the essence of each scene, forcing the candid juxtaposition of man and machine onto the audience.
I was impressed with the production design and how every element on screen screams 80’s – or an imaginable version thereof. It’s not very easy making a modern world look like something from an imagined past; to create the atmosphere one needs to convey the gravity of a scene in the most authentic way possible.
If the narrative were different I wouldn’t forgive the script for not wrapping up every relationship Abbot had in a neat bow by the end; however the point that he’s isolated himself would not be driven home if this was the case, so it works in that sense.
I found it slightly difficult to segment the narrative into various acts, as we just get this constant progression of the technology along Abbot’s journey. This wasn’t too distracting as the narrative broke down the relationships as it intended, and placed sufficient obstacles in Abbot’s way.
Ideas & Themes
An idea from the film, encapsulated in an exclamation from our protagonist, really resonated with me: “No one will ever be alone again”. This has stuck with me even after the credits have rolled. Being a bit of a media junkie, I have noticed a ton of completely serious articles by a range of modern publishers that encourage us to disconnect, to leave our devices alone for a while, to unplug. These articles even provide ways to systematically deal with our screen addictions. How absurd is that?
Yes, it’s pretty absurd, which leads me to a related idea that this film brought to the surface of my mind: The paradox of the technology we use. How it can bring us together, and rip us apart; enable us and trap us.
It just depends how we use it.
Overall Parallax is a good film that presents some interesting ideas and leaves you with a lot to reflect upon. It has a confident cast and competent crew bringing the story to life. It’s definitely worth your time.
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Notable performance: I can’t mention any cast member who wasn’t a great actor, but a standout performance for me came from Mary Sarah Agliotta, who plays Lucia Carina. The sign of a great actress is one who can convey emotion with their eyes alone, and this is something she did perfectly in a number of scenes.
Favourite Scene: Abbott meets with Howard and representatives of the National Science Board for a meal at a restaurant. After seeing a glimmer of hope on the horizon, things spiral out of control and go from bad to worse. The entire scene plays out very comically in terms of the exaggerated characters of the board members, as well as the “what else could go wrong?” situation Abbot finds himself in. It’s all totally exaggerated, but we can all relate to having a day so bad it just doesn’t seem like it could be real.
Check out the Parallax Trailer below:
About the Author: Stephen is an avid film critic and aspiring filmmaker who hopes to one day make a feature as interesting as Parallax. Until then, you can find more of his film ramblings on Twitter @thesnagel.
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