As a society, an overwhelming handful of us collectively are shamelessly conjoined to social networking or more specifically, the internet itself. We bury our zombified faces into a monitor – whether it’s for doing daily tasks (paying bills, connecting with long distance relatives) or using anonymity to antagonize others or steal information without so much as fixating a thought on the consequences.
We have progressed (or regressed) to an age where any person (even a child) can get a stripper without so much as leaving their room while aforementioned internet models make a steady financial living. Disconnect has one apparent purpose; to explore the darkest recesses of our digital age without blinking while simultaneously reminding you that every action, even one within cyber space, has repercussions.
A myriad of stories are set on a collision course with each other and Disconnect just perfects it. First we are taken to an internet modeling trafficking den and introduced to Kyle (Max Theriot) whom performs various sexual acts on a web camera for a living. It obviously is not the most honorable of career paths but for the time being he makes bank and even receives gifts through a glorified wish list. His career path enters a path of uncertainty for the future though as he digitally befriends a female reporter (Andrea Riseborough) over his age range. Teenager/Adult relationships are somewhat of an unexplored taboo but Disconnect pulls it off going in directions you won’t expect.
We are then introduced to some juvenile high school kids who spend their free time bullying an introverted and lonely classmate. Our bullies stoop so despicably low that they create a fake Facebook profile of a female student that attends a different school. Why? Teenagers don’t understand the gravity of their bullying and anonymity allows them to sickeningly get away with doing dastardly deeds. Outside of its unsettling nature it’s all expertly acted which a rarity for younger actors in major roles. It is Jason Bateman though who truly explodes out of his elemental range of comedic performances, and magnificently portrays a lost and distraught father when the situation escalates into something much more consequential and disturbing.
Elsewhere, a drifting married couple played by Alexander Skarsgard and Paula Patton are faced with identity theft as wife Cindy seeks out chat room counseling. A private investigator (who happens to be the father of the aforementioned bullies) is reached out to help pinpoint the criminal. Naturally the online counselor winds up the potential prime suspect (Michael Nyqvist) although concrete evidence is required which sets our now crippled lovers on an adventure to rekindle their love by achieving justice as a unit.
Building up the story arcs is crucial and Academy Award-nominated Director Henry Alex Rubin knows this. He meticulously crafts scenes of gritty and sometimes harrowing realism around his characters, and he very clearly understands how to humanize in a believable way. Scenes solely consisting of characters interacting with each other through text messaging are given life and thrills as each actor nails their posture and expression while we read the stylistically visualized messages in anticipation of where things will go next.
A very small portion during the middle does stagnate though as some points either go nowhere or are telegraphed to an exciting pivotal point that you are anticipating. The movie never once stops engaging though remaining a dirty yet truthful peek into social issues that are elsewhere either ignored or treated as a cringe worthy after school special.
The narrative structure absolutely succeeds in equally distributing each story so that one never takes center stage or feels more important than another. They are equally engaging and the sum of the parts that grippingly lead to a center stage that is an intertwining climax that sinks your heart with suspense as it poetically emphasizes its peak with the most exhilarating use of slow motion in ages. The emotional musical score by Max Richter only enhances the entire movie along with this eruption of a fascinating buildup.
Disconnect is to social networking what Requiem For A Dream was to drug addiction. It fearlessly explores pertinent and relevant themes that are dangerous and circle what has invaded our life routine., and though It may lack subtlety, it compensates with spades of sincerity to inform with straight up realism. Disconnect deserves awards, but more importantly deserves the attention of anyone incapable of doing just what the title suggests before they do something truly stupid. Making it required viewing for teenagers also isn’t a bad idea solely for its disturbingly surreal depiction of bullying consequences. No subject is too taboo or sugarcoated, allowing the film to faithfully execute its edgy themes. Ultimately, Disconnect is easily one of the year’s most provocative and best films.
Disconnect is available On-Demand and releases September 17th on Blu-Ray
This article was first posted on August 21, 2013