Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you made different decisions? Do you think there’s another reality where your decisions led you to success, or to your ultimate demise? Will you even the same person in that parallel universe? All ideas worth exploring in the new science-fiction thriller Parallel.
Parallel follows four housemates trying to develop a smartphone app that allows users to buy and trade parking spaces. They’ve successfully pitched the concept to investors, but when they’re given four days to come up with a beta model, they’re hopes are crushed. Developing a working app within such a short time-frame is practically impossible. The four friends – Josh, Noel, Devan and Leena—declare their project dead and instead go out drinking to mourn all the months they wasted coding. They return home, drunk and discouraged. An argument escalates and objects are thrown in anger. A resulting hole in the wall reveals a secret staircase leading to a mysterious room. Inside this room, the friends discover a portal inside of an old mirror.
“For a while everything is going great, but it’s only a matter of time before things goes horribly wrong.”
On the other side of the mirror, there’s a parallel universe where the housemates never found the secret room. Fifteen minutes inside the mirror is only five seconds in the home dimension. The friends realize they can use the time discrepancy to finish the beta for their app. In two days, they’re able to complete a month’s worth of work. The investors are impressed with their progress and pay handsomely for the completed product.
The possibilities with the portal are endless. The friends become rich by stealing the wallets from their alt-dimension selves. Since the time resets every time they enter the mirror, the money is always there for the taking. When exploring the parallel dimension, Josh comes across a DVD copy of Frankenstein starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Nothing of the sort exists in their home dimension. The discovery shows that each dimension has a slight variation, especially in the creative field. The friends use this new information for their own personal benefit. Leena advances her art career by plagiarizing paintings that don’t exist in her dimension. Noel becomes a billionaire by stealing tech ideas. Josh collects information on women to manipulate them into sleeping with him. Devan, for a change, just wants to find a dimension where his father didn’t commit suicide.
For a while everything is going great, but it’s only a matter of time before things goes horribly wrong. The first half of Parallel can be considered a comedy, as the friends explore different ways to exploit the mirror to their advantage. There are a few great laugh-out-loud moments, courtesy of Mark O’Brien as Josh. Aml Ameen as Devan provides balance with some more emotionally sensitive scenes. But once blood is drawn, the tone becomes darker and the consequences of warping reality become apparent. It goes to show that such power should not be trusted in the hands of mortals.
Parallel scratches the surface of theories of time and space without getting too complicated. Think Primer with a bigger budget and less dense dialogue. If you’ve been bitten by the Rick and Morty bug, then you’re probably fascinated with the concept of the multiverse, and Parallel will gladly indulge you without boring you with complex equations. The film also makes a brief reference to the “Mandela Effect”, when Josh claims he remembers a childhood book having a different title, a clever nod to the Berenstain/Berenstein Bears debate. I’m sure there must be a few holes in Parallel’s science, but to the average viewer with an average education, it all appears logical. As logical as time-travel can be.
“[…] in some other dimension, there might be an entirely different movie going around.”
Director Isaac Ezban adds his spice by playing around with different camera angles and lighting. The time lapse sequences are superbly executed and the film does a lot with its limited special effects, especially with the futuristic tech Noel brings back from other realities. With a film like this, there’s a lot of room for different outcomes, and in some other dimension, there might be an entirely different movie going around. I personally would have liked to see what would happen if one of the characters accidentally bumped into their double in another dimension. But at least in this reality, the existing version of Parallel is thoroughly enjoyable.
Parallel celebrated its North American premiere on July 22nd at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!