Director: Henry Alex Rubin
Cast: Jason Bateman, Frank Grillo, Paula Patton, Andrea Riseborough, Alexander Skarsgard, Hope Davis, Michael Nyqvist, Max Thieriot, Colin Ford
RunTime: 1 hr 55 mins
Rating: M18 (Mature Theme And Nudity)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: http://www.disconnectthemovie.com/
Opening Day: 25 July 2013
Synopsis: A hard-working lawyer, attached to his cell phone, can't find the time to communicate with his family. An estranged couple uses the internet as a means to escape from their lifeless marriage. A widowed ex-cop struggles to raise a mischievous son who cyber-bullies a classmate. An ambitious journalist sees a career-making story in a teen that performs on an adult-only site. They are strangers, neighbours and colleagues and their stories collide in this compelling drama about ordinary people desperate for a human connection.
In this day and age, the ability of modern communication technology to connect people across vast distances while driving people apart has never been truer. This message is the central theme of ‘Disconnect’, and it is showcased through the use of different stories – a workaholic father who neglects his family, a widowed private detective trying to discipline his mischievous son, a couple trying to cope with the loss of their son and a journalist trying to get her big break.
‘Disconnect’ is director Henry Alex Rubin’s first full-length feature film. Rubin’s previous experiences of directing documentaries might have contributed to the factual tone of film, as the storytelling was muted. However, the lack of drama suits the storyline, as the characters are shown leading mundane lives, with an underlying current of dissatisfaction in the monotony, both causing and an effect of their reliance on communication technology.
The director’s previous outings in the documentary genre might also have influenced the lengthy explanation of the characters’ motivations and backstories. While this allows for character development, the story becomes slow-paced and dreary at times. At the end, however, the director attempts to change the pace through the more frequent cuts between the slow-motion fight scenes that happen concurrently. The strategy backfires as the sudden change in tempo is awkward and the fights verge on being over-dramatic. The story’s meandering progress also makes the ending abrupt and unsatisfying – how can the characters suddenly reconcile their differences after drifting apart for most of the movie?
That said, Rubin is able to hold the audience’s attention for most of the film through his suspenseful storytelling. This is especially so in the cyberbullying story arc, where Mike Dixon’s (Frank Gillo) rebellious son and his friend create a fake Facebook account to prank a archetypal school outcast. While the audience is slowly filled with dread, we are unable to look away as the prank turns ugly and spirals out of control, leading to its tragic outcome.
From the ensemble cast, Alexander Skarsgård stands out as Derek Hull, an ex-Marine facing a mid-life crisis – a role extremely different from the manipulative vampire he plays in the TV series ‘True Blood’. Distanced from his wife after the death of their baby son, Hull turns to online gambling for respite. As the story develops, Hull is driven from being passive to becoming the aggressor. Skarsgård is convincing in his role, contributing a tense sense of unpredictability as he becomes more dangerous and crazed.
The younger actors, particularly Colin Ford, Jonah Bobo and Max Thieroit, also shine in their roles, achieving a good balance of vulnerability and youthful recklessness. Although the audience knows that they must take up some amount of responsibility for their actions, we cannot help but place a larger part of the blame on the adults, whose negligence and obsession with their personal goals indirectly lead to the teenagers’ plight.
The reliance on the Internet and other communication technologies contributes to the degeneration of personal relationships, but it ultimately boils down to the willingness of each individual to forsake the relationship. ‘Disconnect’ uses the examples from the lack of human effort to drive home the point that human relationships are irreplaceable in this rapidly computerized world. The film also serves as a warning to the audience of the possible consequences if we let this reliance on technology subconsciously take over our lives.
(‘Disconnect’ is a compelling cautionary tale on the pitfalls of technology, which lapses into being preachy at times)
Review by Goh Yan Hui