“Parallax” is a mysterious, no-budget sci-fi story of identity and its manipulation, a movie that lives on mood and tone.
Writer-director Michael Bachochin crosses the line from “cryptic and obscure” to “obscurist”early on. And when the film finally reveals its secrets, they’re almost pedestrian compared to everything that’s been withheld from the plot-starved and repetitious first 90 minutes.
A young artist wakes up next to a stranger and spends her days living inside her head. Thanks to the film’s heavy reliance on voice-over narration, we move in there with her.
“How many days does it take to open your eyes?” she wonders. “The boundaries of my world are endless…I am fear. I am panic.”
Naomi (Naomi Prentice) has no memory. The man she lives with, who tells her he’s her fiance, Lucas (Nelson Ritthaler) just wants her to do something — anything — to jar that memory back into her consciousness.
Start painting again (she is obsessed with the backyard fig tree, and seascapes), get out of the house.
Just change out of your pajamas, for Pete’s sake.
The tactile experience of making a painting, and then touching it, transports her.
“What did you do today?”
“I went to the ocean.”
Lucas is patient, but desperate. He’s seeing a shrink (Ted Gianopolis), hunting for answers. What happened to my fiance? Where is she?
Bachochin doles out clues — flashbacks — like a miser determined to take it all with him. “Parallax” tests the patience with its sinking underwater nightmares, its wandering the the sea side in a negligee interludes, its nosebleeds.
This stinginess creates a disconnect which we in the movie-reviewing trade call “boredom.” A night of their engagement moment here, a new character (Hattie Smith) there, a fresh location — if anybody who’s ever watched a California movie can call Joshua Tree “fresh” — isn’t enough to make the viewer connect with the characters or what’s going on with them.
Prentice plays her fictional Naomi as utterly poker-faced for most of the film, something that suits the film’s intended mood more than it engages the viewer.
That pursuit of mood and mystery means we’re puzzling our way in “Parallax’s” wake for most of the film, even as we’re way ahead of it in terms of what’s admitted on the screen.
“I think something’s wrong with me” comes about 45 minutes too late for it to be a surprise.
And the resolution, when it at long last comes, both contrasts with the somber meditation that’s come before, and fits it perfectly. Because like most of what’s come before it, the finale fails to satisfy.
I mean, we all love a mystery, but come on.
Rating: unrated, blood, nudity, profanity
Cast: Naomi Prentice, Nelson Ritthaler, Hattie Smith, Ted Gianopolis
Credits: Written and directed by Michael Bachochin. A Primal Group release.
Running time: 1:53