Parallel – VIFF 2018 Review

“They’re so similar you can barely tell them apart,” says a yawning husband about to turn in, to his wife Marissa (Kathleen Quinlan), regarding two images she’s nitpicking over for a photo spread at the beginning of Isaac Ezban’s latest flashy sci-fi thriller, Parallel. For such a prosaic and off-the-cuff remark it’s an incredibly eerie and telling moment for the audience as we’ve just seen that though the woman now underneath the duvet may look like the man’s wife, she’s actually a dangerous doppelgänger with killer intent.

As usual with Ezban (The Incident [2014], The Similars [2015]), the firmament is streaming with high concept ideas, adverse emotions, and a stiff shot of the supernatural in this highly satisfying genre mashup that has our likeable leads getting burned, in what the director details as a metaphor for “playing with the fire of the gods.”

Ostensibly the ill-fated tale of four app developer friends; Devin (Aml Ameen), Josh (Mark O’Brien) Leena (Georgia King), and Noel (Martin Wallström), who are frustrated by setbacks both financial and personal. The group share an old house with a history to it, and one night they stumble upon a secret stairway that leads to a part of the house nobody knew exisited.

Amongst the neglected items in the furtive attic space is a mirror that turns out to be a portal to a seemingly endless array of alternate universes.

And so our protagonists are lured into a series of multiverse expeditions, first to overcompensate for a few missed opportunities, and then to acquire continued prosperity and public esteem.

More visually expansive than Ezban’s previous works, Parallel is well served by cinematographer Karim Hussain (We Are Still Here [2015], Hobo with a Shotgun [2011]), who together offer up a dizzying array of stylistic flourishes and splashes of startling color to descry and detail the different multiverses. The nimble camera rarely rests, delivering a wide arrangement of virtuoso visuals, including De Palma-like split-diopters, Kubrickian steadicam tracking shots, spiraling dervishes, and breathless closeups signifying unease and anticipating imminent dangers.

As Parallel breathlessly speeds towards its precarious finish, the audience is easily swept up in the complexities of time, identity, morality and the ethics of technological analysis couched in the form of a chic, ultra-slick and yet shrewdly nuanced weird-science psychodrama.

Capturing the genre jeu d’esprit, Ezban gives us one of the strongest sci-fi offerings of the year, a film that is endlessly inventive, and sheerly enjoyable. Don’t miss it.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.