I’m going to try and keep this simple without spoiling anything, because part of the joy of this particular film is navigating how odd and surprising the plot turns (not twists; there is a difference) are. I may not succeed, but here goes…
Paul (Brad Dryborough) begins finding letters taped to his apartment door from an unnamed stalker (Tygh Runyan). The letters are full of philosophical questions and musings, and it is revealed that Paul’s stalker is under the impression that the two men are dopplegängers of each other. Which could be true in an emotional and philosophical sense, but the two sure don’t look alike upon finally meeting.
What follows after that first in-person meeting is a spiral of quirk and weird, as the stalker, named Karl, shares a manuscript of his memoir with Paul and then, months later, two strangers (Ben Cotton and Matty Finochio) show up on a TV talk show, promoting a memoir very similar to stalker Karl’s own rantings while also giving a familiar back story of being dopplegänger themselves. Are these new strangers true dopplegängers of each other, and possibly even Paul and Karl? What is going on? Paul and Karl set out on a truth-finding road trip to meet these new author-celebrities on their book tour, and we get to come along for the ride.
Confused? It’s actually much easier to follow by watching the movie than by reading my own synopsis-crafting skills, so I apologize for that. It is an odd little film, and the performances in the film go for understated while the tone goes for unassuming, but it all works to create an engaging, and original, cinematic adventure.
Tygh Runyan’s Karl is all pent-up neuroses and borderline American Psycho, but almost too wounded puppy dog to ever find as anything other than an annoying, harmless distraction. Then there’s Brad Dryborough’s Paul; not as clean-looking as Karl, due to his scruffy facial hair, and possessing the ability to have an emotional response far more similar to a normal person, even though he’s as damaged as Karl is under-the-surface. The two of them bounce off each other brilliantly throughout, as the story continues to get weirder and weirder.
Indie road movies are nothing new; they’re so common that I’m surprised that film fests don’t have a competition category just for road trip films. For this reason, when a road movie comes along that tries something a bit different, I am already appreciative of the attempt. Originality only goes so far, however, and the execution has to be there too. In the case of Dylan Akio Smith and Kris Elgstrand’s Dopplegänger Paul, not only is the attempt to be applauded, but the end result as well.