Summary: Lost in a world of overloaded connection, the real and virtual realms converge in four stories that are profoundly human.
Full Review: Past movies have sought to exploit the online world as the new setting for a film, but Disconnect provides us with the one of first films to go beyond demonizing the technology or showing its exploitation by purely evil antagonists. This movie is a multi-threaded quadrilogy of age-old stories of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and the exploited and exploiters.
Disconnect is, in many ways, a sister to the movie Crash with its dense realism and intense topics. And looking within the story lines presented here you find many of the same themes- loss, lack of communication, disconnection, isolation and pain. Disconnect is as much the exploration of these cycles in our era as it is an indictment of the technology that allows us to mask these cycles within the self-medicating world of online "connection"- a misnomer if ever one existed.
The film has a very competent cast, consisting of Jason Bateman, Jonah Bobo, Andrea Riseborough, Frank Grillo, Alexander Skarsgård, Max Theriot and Hope Davis. There are other strong characters too, and it is partly because this is an interwoven story that draws on four separate narratives that we don't have truly one or two main stars in this film. All the better. Every part is played with power and realism. Nothing seems out-of-place or contrived, save one of the closing scenes where Bateman and Grillo's characters fight only to (surprisingly) just walk away with no realistic resolution. We understand the moral and ethical truisms of their stalemate, but practicality of it belies the otherwise solid realism of the rest of the film.
But that is a small aberration from an otherwise stellar film. I won't, though tempted, detail each storyline for you, for the simple fact that the discovry of these narratives is part of the power of the film. The presentation is as cunning as the acting is perfect. Nevertheless, the four main plots are easily seen, and they do not, as Crash and other movies do, converge on a single point in time or with a single pinnacle of resolution. Instead, these stories are interconnected, to be sure, by the realm of their happenstance- real people, work, school, relationships, pain, loss and the swirling need for connection with binds it all together.
Thus far, Disconnect is the best film of the year for this reviewer. Its story, acting and presentation are all top notch. See it now. If you don't discover it until it's available on-demand or blu-ray, be sure to rent or buy it. It is well worth the cost.
For parents, this movie should be looked at in two ways. First, the movie has explicit scenes of nudity, sexual activity, explicit talk and even drug use. The movie's MPAA "R" rating is strong and appropriate warning to its graphic nature.
That said, for those parents who might be willing, I would suggest an alternative consideration for this film- see it first, then consider seeing it with your teenager. This may come as a shock for some, as certainly the movie has difficult topics being covered, not the least of which is exploitation of minors in the sex trade. But taken from the view that this movie is a look into the pain and damage caused by the pervasive nature of our culture's enamored approach to "online technology", Disconnect provides a powerful, realistic and even hopeful view that facing the root of these problems (real relationships) may finally be in order. I do not think any parent should take their child to this film without watching it first. But having done that, I believe that children 16 and over may well learn, with a parent's pre-screening, accompanying presence and later discussion, something profound through watching this film. However, every parent must and should not leave this judgment to a movie review- see the film yourself, and consider your own children, your own situation. Most North American children at age 16 and over will likely not be shocked by the content here, but may well be impacted by the power of the story. That is my hope. Again, if my suggestion here sounds ill-advised or frivolous, ignore it.
That said, this movie (for adults able and willing to see it) is powerful, even exceptional, both as art and as narrative in the mode of film. I am not blind to the fact that Hollywood's job is normally to make money for their shareholders, not to help teach or infuse a moral compass in society. But this film seems to be ready to leave some points concluded while other points unresolved, with pain hanging at the air. And it seems this is done for the very good reason of leaving us with the belief that this might be how "real" life and relationships actually work. If you have the constitution for it, Disconnect may well be the best film you will see this year.
Amazon DVD Link: http://amzn.to/ZODvhW
Review by Kim Gentes