Director: Henry Alex Rubin
Writers: Andrew Stern
Starring: Jason Bateman, Andrea Riseborough, Paula Patton, Frank Grillo
A drama centered around three stories which explore three separate relationships woven around the common theme of the disconnect which our new interconnected world has formed. Human beings; a class of mammal partially defined by our social interactions have reached a point in our technological evolution where we can communicate with almost anyone, instantly, anywhere across the globe. Is it instant communication or is it just instant contact? If 90% of what we communicate is non-verbal then how sure can we be of who we are speaking to, what their true intentions are and the bonds we make.
Disconnect introduces us to three such interactions and examines how the characters navigate this new world and the challenges it presents. A young couple in mourning over a painful loss (Paula Patton & Alexander Skarsgård) may be living under the same roof but may as well be strangers as each tries to come to terms with what they have lost, both physically and emotionally. In the absence of meaningful exchange of feelings both look online for solace. Their relationship is strained still further with ID fraud, mounting debts and their inability to find comfort in the arms of the person who was once everything to them.
Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo) is a young teenager who leads a life on the fringe of high school. His efforts to express himself in the form of music lead him to post his life and creative efforts online in the hope of remote understanding and kindred hearts online. His parents’ inability to interact with their unpopular son mirrors many parents’ troubles communicating with a child still forming their identity. Jason Bateman gives a fine performance as Ben’s hard-working lawyer father; his busy work schedule leaving a widening gulf between father and son. As Ben finds someone he can talk to and express his musical ideas and talents he puts more of his trust onto a girl he has only talked with through a keyboard and computer screen. The more he risks the more he has to gain but at what cost?
Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough) is a journalist working for a local TV station but has yet to leave her journalistic mark upon the world. Like many ambitious and driven people in her profession she has gone in search of stories rather than being satisfied with the fluff pieces provided by her editor. Searching online she finds many websites where young men and women will, as it seems, quite happily pose in front of webcams for money. Sex and titillation in the 21st century is only a few mouse clicks away but can those who use these websites be truly satisfied with an acting performance given by young adult who seems ready and willing to reveal their physical selves for a few dollars. The story unfolds as she befriends a boy she meets on one of these websites so she can write an expose of the exploitation she has witnessed in the darker corners of the internet. Angela Riseborough gives another fine performance, torn between trying to keep a professional distance and crossing that line into caring for someone.
In order to gain trust, trust must be given. In giving over a part of yourself, you have made a judgement that the person you are trusting has been truthful and is honest in their motivations. Henry Alex Rubin’s fine film explores our willingness to trust the letters appearing on our computer screens and mobile phones, in an almost desperate need for a connection, even when there is a physical person within reach. Even the term ‘social media’ – how social is it really?
Good direction, fine and often understated acting performances and an excellent script has produced characters I didn’t for a moment not care for. Both the director and writer have produced few films in their career, Rubin’s ‘Girl Interrupted’ is perhaps the only work of note but if Disconnect is anything to go by, expect good things in the future.
Disconnect is a film which should not only be enjoyed but should make you explore your own relationship with those people you choose not to hold with your own two hands.