Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fantasia ’12: Easton’s Article

It is 1997.  The internet bubble has yet to burst and dial-up is still commonplace.  Easton Denning is an internet expert who has seen the future.  Unfortunately, he is not a part of it.  Time will bend as the computer wonk challenges fate head on in Tim Connery’s high concept, low-gloss science fiction drama Easton’s Article (trailer here), which screens at the 2012 Fantasia Festival.

After high school, Easton left Iowa and never looked back, until now.  He had his reasons, which will be revealed as he deals with his current crisis.  One night, his internet spiders retrieved a massive data dump.  Most of it was just corrupted files and the like, but there was one document that spooked Denning: his future obituary.

Along with his death notice, the scanned file includes hand written notes instructing him to be at certain places at certain times.  He will know why when he gets there.  Obediently, Denning returns home, duly encountering the father and girlfriend of his close high school friend, who died under murky circumstances their senior year.  Somehow, karma appears to be using the internet to do its thing.

Frankly, the time travel elements in Article are basically hocus pocus, likening a digital information deluge to a flood of water, effectively spilling over into the past.  However, the characterizations and the overriding vibe of tragically unfinished business are strong enough to overwhelm logical pedantry.  Perhaps the closest comparison film would be John Weiner & Danny Kuchuck’s clever Cryptic, which deserved more attention when it played the festival circuit.

Indeed, Article represents the road not taken often enough in the science fiction genre, telling an intimate yet speculative story, with little or no special effects required.  Connery’s completely linear script fits together the pieces without any distracting seams, while fully immersing viewers in his characters’ lives and Midwestern environment.

Looking like everyday regular people, the small ensemble is smart and engaging throughout Article.  Given the anti-social protagonist’s myriad flaws, Chad Meyer has a somewhat tough road to hoe, but he portrays Easton as a haunted, fully dimensional human figure.  Likewise, Kristina Johnson brings substance and sensitivity to Hayley Reed, Easton’s potential love interest.  A more sharply drawn role than typically expected in low budget genre fare, Reed is a refreshingly active participant here and not simply stuck on the sidelines wringing her hands.

Easton’s Article might just be the definitive Iowan science fiction film.  Moody and thoughtful, it is definitely for the high end of science fiction fandom’s bell curve, but by the same token it is also quite accessible to non-genre audiences.  Recommended accordingly, Easton’s Article screens this coming Wednesday (8/1) at this year’s Fantasia Festival up north.