Film protagonist Tyler is uncharismatic but is still able to attract sympathy thanks to the versatility of Dye’s performance. Katherine McNamara, known for Netflix hit Shadowhunters, commits to her role as love interest Paige but at times delivers an over-dramatic rendition (Spoiler alert! She cries…a lot). Playing Mr. Stevenson, school cop, Anthony Michael Hall isn’t on-screen enough to make much of a difference. Everyone else just adds to the flat tone of the film.
This brings to light another shortcoming: a cast that struggles to connect. It’s clear that Scheifele intended to emphasize the bond between the two leading characters in order to progress the story. Dye and Munzert individually manage to command the screen, but together they disappointedly lack chemistry. When you should be contemplating their downward spiral, you’re instead left to wonder why the two are even friends in the first place.
“…instead left to wonder why the two are even friends in the first place.”
With such riveting, emotional subject matter, you want Natural Selection to succeed. You want to be thrust into the throes of the darkness that must exist in the days leading up to a person’s decision to become a school shooter. As the final credits roll, you want to emerge from this film completely shattered, grieving, and angry that this fictional narrative is very close to countless realities in American schools today.
Woefully, Natural Selection is unable to deliver. From the script to production quality, it plays off as overdone and out of touch. Still, what makes it worth watching are newcomers Munzert, Dye and McNamara. Although not entirely consistent, they manage to salvage the wreckage and turn it into a piece that will undoubtedly have you scanning their IMDb pages for other work.
A one-dimensional depiction of a heart-wrenching topic, Scheifele’s Natural Selection ultimately fails to make us feel what it should.
Natural Selection (2016) Written and directed by Chad Scheifele. Starring Katherine McNamara, Anthony Michael Hall, Mason Dye, Amy Carlson, Ryan Munzert.
2 out of 5 stars