A Martin Scorsese picture or a Clint Eastwood film can be expected in theaters fairly regularly. But in independent film, one never knows when a favorite filmmaker might resurface, due to a number of factors: Ideas, money, vision, money, and money.
Having written for Film Threat for five years now, I’ve racked up a list of filmmakers whose names I’d like to see again attached to a film. One of my first, and very much at the top of that list, was and still is Mia Trachinger, whose 2000 film “Bunny,” (which was one of my first reviews in 2003), is still undistributed, but should be considered because of her latest work.
Back then, after seeing this story of an immigrant woman who’s employed in a bunny suit to hop on a street corner and comfort those who need it, I wanted to see something new from Trachinger immediately after. The website for “Bunny” remained open for quite some time after my review had been posted (the old version of the site anyway, as there’s now a new one), and to me, that was hope that perhaps Trachinger was considering new ideas, that maybe in the next year or two, there would be another film bearing her name.
But the website disappeared. And so did she, it seemed. Incredibly disappointing, because a talented mind like hers should always be waving high from among the crowd of independent films wanting to be seen.
For Trachinger, it’s been eight years since “Bunny.” For me, too long, and the arrival of “Reversion,” is most welcome. Stunning in the ideas it presents and the discussions it’s likely to provoke, you’ll be sitting down with your friends for hours, debating not only the intentions of these characters in this grounded real-world sci-fi setting, but also what you would do in your own life if you had what they have.
“Reversion” first screened in the New Frontiers category at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Very much appropriate, because though “Reversion” was written and directed by Trachinger, this isn’t only her vision. There’s the actors, led by the afro-dominated Leslie Silva, whose performances ought to garner them a lot more attention in independent film (and hopefully in Hollywood as well) in roles that suit their apparent strengths. There’s the cinematography by Patricia Lee, which is perfect for Los Angeles. Moody. Full of questions, not all of which can be answered. At the start, when the genetic mutant Eva (Silva) walks out of a house with the teenaged mutant Ray (Tom Maden), the morning sunlight is muted, as you’d expect in the neighborhood they walk in, trying to find an unlocked car.
That’s the first big surprise from “Reversion,” how Eva simply gets into a car, hot-wires it and drives away. In the back of one’s mind while watching this, thoughts about this sort of thing being a bitch for the LAPD are commonplace. Eva’s actions are triggered by who she is and it takes about 20 minutes before fully understanding who she is and exactly what’s going on.
The genetics of Eva, Ray, and later Marcus (Jason Olive) and others living in a communal apartment building, don’t allow them to live a linear life, complete with morals and a sense of right and wrong. The past, present, and future are all packaged together. They can see what’s going to happen, which is the most crucial feature of the genetics for Eva. After she meets Marcus, and likes him enough to perhaps consider him as a lover, she sees a future involving a gun that Ray has that she might use on Marcus.
This is where Trachinger taps into a theme already apparent from “Bunny,” that of women in foreign territory. Luda (Petra Tikalova) was new to America from her nameless, civil-war-torn country. Eva, who knows well enough about seeing the past, present and the future together, attempts to change the tragic future. But can it be done? Does Eva have the steeled willpower to make that gun an instant memory?
It helps that Trachinger has the habit of casting dedicated actors. With her laser-precision eyes that keep us watching, Silva makes Eva continually compelling. She’s angry, she’s thinking, and at one point, she even goes to the beach where there is apparently a surfer guy, Nick (Ed Refuerzo) who can help a genetic mutant attain a life like ours, with morals and a past that can be examined at length, and a future that cannot be known. Jason Olive’s performance as Marcus helps it all make sense. You can feel “Reversion” clicking together in your head when he’s thinking of searching for Ray’s gun, and there’s a quick shot of him, in red, throwing a box to the side. A few minutes later, he’s actually doing it.
Trachinger also employs mysterious narration, explaining a baby’s growth and what happens if they don’t have the perspective of right and wrong, helping us understand how Eva and the rest of the community live. She even finds a few moments for comedy, especially through two stoners (George Contreras and Aly Mawji) sitting on a rooftop, serving as a Greek chorus to the story unfolding, giving each other their opinions on genetic mutants, and even trying to see the future through their internal pot-induced haze. A fine contrast between our world and the mutants.
“Reversion” is a prime example of collaboration in independent film. It feels like everyone involved in this film knew what was being presented and wanted to be sure that anyone watching would get the most out of the experience, and the best way to do that was to be sure that all the elements were prominently featured, and the viewer becomes a kind of collaborator as well.
While watching Eva and Marcus drive around Los Angeles, long after Ray has run off, I immediately got to thinking about all I’ve done so far in a writing career that I hope ends up somewhere satisfying some day, that the time I’ve spent working for two newspapers, especially a taxing experience at the second one, will benefit me. I wanted to know that, but I know I can’t. That only belongs to Eva and the rest of that small community. But would I want that kind of life? I don’t know. Not even a day after watching “Reversion,” I’m still thinking about it. I trust that a week later and then two weeks, it’ll still be in my mind.
That the subject matter remains in one’s mind long after is the greatest power contained in “Reversion,” and it’s yet another strong reason for Trachinger to make more movies, hopefully at a quicker pace. It’s now getting harder and harder to patiently wait for another film bearing her name.