Gregg Furuoka’s Tethered is a lo-fi sci-fi mystery spanning several timelines. Samatha Morris (Caroline Harris) is a police detective barely holding her personal and professional life together. Her sister just passed away, and her life begins to spin out of control during a murder investigation.
She and her partner, John Keller (Joshua Kwak), are on the murder scene of a “John Doe.” The only clue is the victim’s journal, which leads the pair to a remote mountain location far from cellphone range. However, before they have a chance to respond, Sam and Keller are paralyzed by a strange noise, and both pass out. When Sam comes to, Keller is missing and presumed dead.
Jump forward in time, and Sam finds herself barely holding it together and obsessed with uncovering what happened to her partners. Unfortunately, she has been removed from the case because she’s too close, and Sam constantly assures Keller’s wife, Jules (Erika Enggren), that she’ll find answers. Finally, in the act of desperation, Sam begs fellow detective and now boyfriend, Ferris (Connor Keene), to pull several months of casework for her secret side investigation.
Sam’s research leads her to a suspicious home and while searching the home comes across a very alive Keller, who happened to arrive at the same home looking for clues of a missing Sam. It appears that the pair were flung onto two separate timelines, and both have been searching for the other this entire time.
“…the pair were flung onto two separate timelines, and both have been searching for the other this entire time.”
I mentioned before that Tethered is a very lo-fi sci-fi thriller, and it has a huge hurdle to cross as the MCU is telling several similar alternate timeline stories, and Disney is giving them hundreds of millions of dollars to do it. So my fear is a small film like Tethered just can’t compete.
What I like about Gregg Furuoka’s film is how he plays with timelines and time loops while weaving within it a murder investigation. As the answers are slowly revealed, the investigation becomes more complicated, and the suspects become more complex as the time loops play a massive role in unexpected ways.
When it comes to sci-fi and timelines, these stories are generally hard to tell, and the difference between stories with a hundred million dollars backing it versus no dollars is a start one. However, Tethered does find that overcoming these disadvantages is complicated and often confusing. I’ll be honest. I needed to watch Tethered a second time to pick up on story elements that just passed me by.
Character development is another area that could have elevated the story to greater heights. Though acted well by Caroline Harris, the character of Sam needed dimension. Yes, she’s a tough cop affected by supernatural occurrences, but how do these occurrences directly affect Sam’s personality and resolve to solve the case? Does it make her more emboldened to find the answer, or does it send her reeling into a deeper state of confusion? This idea is essential because it allows audiences to connect with characters on a deeper and more emotional level. It also strengthens the impact of the big twist in the end.
Though not perfect, I admire low-budget science-fiction, like Tethered, because, unlike the other genres, creators all have certain takes, thoughts, and opinions about life and reality. Furthermore, as indie filmmakers, like Gregg Furuoka, prove science-fiction is not restricted, nor should it ever be restricted to the deep pockets of the big studio.
"…plays with timelines and time loops while weaving within it a murder investigation."