Reality – it’s difficult enough to deal with one’s own mundane reality on a daily basis. So it stands to reason as to why many people are interested in knowing how the other half live. However, what if there was a way to find out not quite how the other half live, but instead how one’s self lives in an alternate, parallel existence? Sounds intriguing, yes?
For Heather and Neil, the reality of things is that they seem happy and very much in love. They met at a friend’s birthday party and it’s almost as if it were a twist of fate that brought them together. And from the moment they first lay eyes on each other it’s as if it was preordained that they be together.
Of course fate, if you believe in such things, has a funny way about it, and the path it lays out is not always straight and true. And when Heather and Neil meet a man named Machlis, they find themselves at a fork in the road…so to speak. Machlis has a psychic ability of sorts, which allows him to view peoples alternate selves in a parallel world. Furthermore, he can also help others to take a glimpse into said world…for a price. He professes that he is not comfortable using his gift for the dangers it poses, but no one can truly understand these dangers without experiencing it first hand.
Ieva Makselyte directed Parallel from a script written by David Magowan, who also stars in the film as Neil. It’s an incredible premise with so much potential. Unfortunately the execution leaves much to be desired. The idea of being able to see one’s parallel existence and live somewhat vicariously through it…the cinematic possibilities are astounding. Furthermore, the idea of becoming addicted to watching it, and how it can disrupt or even destroy ones real existence, holds real relevance in today’s society. The story tries to illustrate how quickly even the most seemingly strong relationship can crumble when one or both parties begin to take more of an interest in what’s going on on “the other side” rather than investing quality time to real human relationships in their own reality. It’s a premise that could show the truly psychologically horrific and terrifying side of our voyeuristic tendencies, but it lacks the length(79 minutes? Really?) and truly unsettling content to develop such a disturbing story.
While the performances at times were solid, they were mostly lukewarm and inconsistent. Faye Sewell performance in the role of Heather, starts off strong in the beginning but doesn’t evolve as it should as the story progresses. Her performance would have been more compelling if her character displayed a modicum of guilt and remorse for allowing this experience to affect her real life. And her alternate self just seemed to be the same as her regular self , save for the fact she has different experiences, since there doesn’t seem to be any drastic differentiation in their personalities. Magowan’s portrayal also lacked a certain element it really needed – a reason to feel sympathetic for his character. It seems as if that’s something the viewer is supposed to feel for him, since Heather’s “addiction” is eroding the foundation of the couple’s relationship. But his character is just as guilty, since he also takes part in his own private viewing sessions. He also comes off as an ill tempered blowhard at times, and I would likely feel more sympathy if there were a genuine sadness or justifiable jealousy instead of temper tantrums. Brian Carter as Machlis, did well not to fall into the trap of making his character an ominous and overly mysterious cliche. He is a tad enigmatic due to the character’s defensible reluctance to use his gift(curse). Yet, I was troubled that his character succumbed too quickly to being pressured by Heather to allow her a glimpse “behind the curtain”, as it were.
The appearance of the film is drab, flat and low key. To counter this the alternate or parallel side needed to employ vivid and possibly saturated colors and contrasty tones. BUT, the alternate existence is represented by scenes that are filmed in black and white. This rather humdrum element is all that differentiates the two existences – a switch from dull and drab to grey-scale. If a parallel existence is to be more enticing, more interesting and ultimately addictive…why represent it in black and white? It needs to look beguiling, forbidden and even sexy, but frankly…black and white didn’t cut it.
The music was also very problematic as it was entirely too loud and really didn’t do anything to compliment or enhance the scenes with which it was associated. It was jarring, annoying at made it difficult to hear the dialogue during those scenes in which it was employed.
I truly do like the idea behind this film, as the mind reels with the possibilities for a film with such a premise. Imagine the compelling and even terrifying film that could come out of a story where the characters could experience their alternate existences. But as I said, the way the parallel existence was visualized had me confused and dissatisfied. It should have been vivid, bold, lurid and seductive, but it basically looked like the camera operator flipped the camera to black and white only for those scenes and didn’t notice until they began editing. Oops! Granted the acts of the characters on the other side were still lurid and dark, but there is nothing visual to punctuate those acts. And at one point Machlis discloses a bit of info that is interesting and pertinent to the story, but also makes the ending rather predictable. I wonder what I thought of it in my alternate existence, because in this one I’m giving it 4 ½ /10.
Parallel is currently available to rent on Amazon Prime if you wish to partake and formulate your own opinion, but you must ask yourself, “what would the other me do?”