Ranju and Sanjit Majumdar’s “Determinism” is the type of coming-of-age film that’s seldom told. The story unfolds at a Pennsylvania college campus, and concerns the bleaker side of academia, where education and dreams succumb to drug deals, guns and murder.
Interestingly told from the point of view of Alec (Sanjit Majumdar), via live-action and the interspersion of Alec’s video-documentary/self-portrait, we are able to simultaneously view and experience the drama from the inside.
Alec feels like an outcast at school—not only because of racial tension, but because he has flunked out and been disowned by his father. Unable to return home, Alec and his buddy Tristan (Ryan Lewis) concoct a plan to make enough money to buy independence and respect. In order to perfect their goal, they must steal a large bag of Vicodin from a small town dealer. Then, when the subsequent drug deal goes awry, there is no turning back for either one of them.
Though there is absolutely no comic relief in “Determinism”; what saves the movie from spiraling into dismal monotony, is a certain poetic beauty that moves in symphony with the darkness. This can be found in Ranju Majumdar’s exquisite film score and magnificent cinematography. Picturesque cinematography is often attributed to Terrence Malick’s films, and rightfully so. But where Malick uses photography in a more philosophical-counterbalance to a violent infrastructure, Majumdar’s pictures work more to reflect the general moodiness that pervades both the story and its characters. In this respect, cinematography itself becomes another character—and that is just plain interesting.
Naturally, “Determinism” is not without the flaws most new filmmakers without a budget run up against. That is to say, many of the characters might have been a bit more believable had they have been portrayed by professional actors. Still, the lead actors are, thankfully, excellent at conveying their disturbing personas. A special commendation should also be given to actor Mike Preyer, who plays the ambiguous character, Kallen, with perfection.
All in all, “Determinism” is strongly recommended in terms of its tight script, subtle experimentalism and a daringly provocative message that no one can afford to discount.
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