Now that you’ve (probably) seen Oblivion, Disconnect should be the next film on your to-see list. The drama-thriller, starring Jason Bateman and Alexander Skarsgard, among others, was an entrant in both the 2012 Venice and Toronto Film Festivals and is the first narrative from documentarian Henry-Alex Rubin (Murderball) and the product of screenwriter Andrew Stern. Like 2005’s Crash, Disconnect uses a handful of softly-related stories to explore the effect one’s digital-doings have on his ability to truly connect with others.
The film is intense, and if the amount of time the film stays with you after you’ve seen it is anything to go by, it’s worth a watch.
Similar to Crash with its interwoven storylines, the film still stakes its own particular territory, featuring fewer storylines and more specific digital-age quandaries: cyber-bullying, underage sex workers, questionable behavior in chat rooms and identity theft.
While one father (Arrested Development’s Bateman) ponders the part he played in a family tragedy involving cyber-bullying, another (Frank Grillo) remains oblivious to the ways his work as a cyber-crimes detective have kept him from connecting with his lonely son. But it’s not just families who struggle in our plugged-in society: ambitious television reporter (the refreshing Andrea Riseborough) struggles to make sense of her involvement with an underage online-sex worker. (Full disclosure: designer Marc Jacobs plays the boy’s pimp). Rounding it all out is young couple (Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard), who find themselves the victims of identity theft as they fight to connect again after the death of their infant son.
In addition to the actors, whose understated performances underscore the gravitas of the film (Bateman will surprise you), the film’s organic score – courtesy of Max Richter – is another standout. Haunting and searching, the analog orchestral piece stands in stark contrast to the we-are-the-disillusioned, perfectly-placed indie tracks (Awolnation’s “Sail,” Electric Guest’s “American Dream”) that dot the film.
It would be easy to say Disconnect is a tragic tale of how technology alienates us, but it’s not that simple. Ironically, each character’s digital disasters bring him closer to something – either to his family, a stranger or to a better understanding of himself. Maybe human nature is such that we are always meant to stumble in our attempts to connect. Maybe we are less connected as a result of our wired world. Or maybe it’s how we use technology that determines the quality of our connections. The beauty of Disconnect is that the film lets viewers decide for themselves.
Verdict: See it. You won’t get the warm fuzzies, but you’ll wake up the next day thinking about it.
Release date: April 19, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
Cast: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgard, Paula Patton