Parallel has everything going against it. At its best, it looks like it was filmed on your aunt’s camcorder from 2005. At its worst, it appears to be recorded on a flip phone in the dark — one scene early on is almost impossible to see. Scattered throughout the movie are a number of awkward moments in dialogue, action, and editing.
If you can get past all of this, the film boggles the mind with a story that pierces through its rough presentation. Heather (Faye Sewell) starts a job at a company and falls in love with coworker Neil (David Magowan) after meeting at an office party. The two pursue a relationship until Heather runs into a medium. She’s entranced by his way with words and air of mystery, even more so when he begins describing his unique form of bewitchery. He can’t tell you the future or speed dial the dead, but he can give you a keyhole’s view into your parallel life, as there is a second reality progressing alongside ours. In it, many things are the same, and many things are different.
“…experiencing her other life drives a wedge between her and Neil…”
When Heather sees her alternate life, in which she’s carrying on a sexual relationship with a different coworker, she’s enamored by it in a way that we would all be by viewing our own behavior that isn’t truly ours. The easy route for the story to take would be that she’s living vicariously through her doppelganger’s actions, but, instead, the story takes it further into the unknown and makes it about Heather questioning who she is — nothing shatters your foundation like the possibility that you don’t know yourself at all. Her interest in seeing the medium and experiencing her other life drives a wedge between her and Neil, as he views it as a roundabout way of cheating. He, too, gets a peek into his parallel life and encounters many of the same existential mind-knots that Heather does.
The idea of the “double” shows up a lot in fiction, and Parallel explores it in the usual ways. However, it succeeds in that it leans into the exploration. David Magowan’s screenplay keeps up the mystery, knowing that it can’t possibly provide any satisfactory answers. Allowing the characters the opportunity to choose to temporarily live their double’s life adds a new layer to it, as does the greater context of a fragile relationship. All of this works together to create an environment of intellectual and emotional entanglement that keeps you trying to look past everything director Ieva Makselyte gets wrong, as much as that’s possible.
The premise of Parallel keeps it afloat, but it’s still fighting the current of itself. Certain issues can be forgiven, in the spirit of indie scrappiness, but others just get in the way — scenes being too dark, audio randomly getting louder, unnatural editing — to the point where it would be hard to recommend this to a friend, which is the lifeblood of grassroots marketing. Just removing the low-rent opening credits would go a long way in creating a better first impression. Part of working successfully within a low budget is hiding the budget. You can buy your clothes at Walmart and look good. With its great story, this dramatic mystery with a pseudo-sci-fi bent has no excuse not to look good.
"…boggles the mind..."