Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Parallax: Very Indie SF

Naomi’s grasp on reality is slippery at best, but she would be the first to acknowledge it, so we can’t call her delusional. The question is which reality she intermittently experiences is real and which is a dream? It might be even more complicated than that in director-screenwriter Michael W. Bachochin’s Parallax, which releases this Friday on VOD.

Naomi’s long-suffering fiancé Lucas believes they live in objective reality, where he dutifully takes care of her while she mopes around the house in a state of near catatonia. However, Mikayla, the woman who appears in the fantasy landscapes Naomi visits in her waking dreams, after painting them on her canvases, seems to think otherwise, even though she is less dogmatic about it. Mikayla also acts like she is Naomi’s partner, causing her further confusion. Frankly, the disturbed artist is starting to come unmoored, mentally and emotionally, because her nightmares of drowning are depriving her of sleep.

That is sort of the situation, but of course it is much trickier than that. Bachochin has a big, heady twist to lay on viewers halfway through that really turns the film on its head. Unfortunately, the first half (or so) has major pacing issues. For far too long, viewers will also feel like they are trapped in that house with the monosyllabic Naomi.

It doesn’t help that lead thesp Naomi Prentice does not give many signs of life under her sullen exterior during most of that time. For considerable stretches, Nelson Ritthaler largely carries the film (admirably) as the understandably conflicted Lucas. Yet, when things finally get going, Prentice has some surprisingly poignant scenes with him and in reference to him. As Mikayla, Hattie Smith really helps keep viewers off-balance. Plus, Ted Gianopulos gets to say a lot of cool genre-movie head-shrinker-doctor stuff as Dr. Hill, Lucas’s analyst.

Parallax runs nearly a full two hours, but it really ought to be more like ninety minutes. There is too much set-up to chug through, but the mind-tripping material is worth making the effort. This is ultra-micro-DIY filmmaking, but it is built around some smart writing and intriguing concepts. It is a promising statement from an emerging filmmaker, but genre fans should be ready to pace themselves during the early going. Recommended for fans of scrappy indie science fiction, Parallax releases this Friday (7/10), on VOD platforms.