Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Tribeca ’21: Ultrasound

Unless you find yourself in a small Midwestern or Southern town, anyone would be naturally suspicious to be received with excessive hospitality when knocking on a stranger’s door after midnight. That is what Glen experiences when his car breaks down in the middle of a late-night storm. Art and his wife Cyndi roll out the welcome-wagon for him in ways that definitely confuse him, but things will get even weirder in Rob Schroeder’s Ultrasound, which screens as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

It would be spoilery to tell much more than that.
Ultrasound, adapted by Conor Stechschulte from his own graphic novel, clearly aspires to be a puzzle-box movie. In fact, the first half hour or so is downright bewildering, but it eventually starts to come together and ultimately leaves very little unexplained business on the table.

Be that as it may, there are also subplots involving Shannon, a trauma counselor who just accepted a position at a secretive behavioral research institute and the pregnant mistress of senator up for re-election (of course, the film identifies him as a Republican, because why wouldn’t you want to alienate 48% of your potential audience?).

Regardless, it really does come together, more or less. Breeda Wool helps tremendously to sell it all as Shannon, who turns out to be one of the film’s most interesting characters. Likewise, Tunde Adebimpe is terrific as her boss, Dr. Connors. All the performances are pretty solid and Bobb Barito’s eerie sound design nicely serves the vibe and plot elements (living up to the title).

There is plenty of score-settling in the politician’s subplot, but it still largely feels tacked on. It is also a tiresome to see our military once again playing a shadowy, potentially villainous role. At the risk of revealing too much, there are indeed considerable parallels with Amazon Prime’s
Homecoming. Regardless, cinematographer Mathew Rudenberg gives it the right kind of noir look.

works up to a point, but it isn’t quite as clever as it thinks (which would be amazingly clever). The talented cast really powers it across the finish line, even though the film’s biases are its own worst enemy. Earning a moderate recommendation, Ultrasound streams through June 23rd as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.