Director Isaac Ezban brings an entirely new spin to the science fiction thriller by introducing two very simple, yet madness-inducing constructs: smoke and mirrors. When separate, neither of these two things are of any consequence, but when they’re brought together, the truth becomes obscured and reality becomes altered. If one starts meddling with such forces, a domino effect will take place that cannot be reversed.
Parallel follows a quartet of roommates who are struggling to succeed in their personal as much as their professional lives: Devin (Aml Ameen) and Noel (Martin Wallström) are long-time friends and business partners, trying and continuously failing to sell the parking app they’ve designed to wealthy investors; Josh (Mark O’Brien) is a software engineer whose been pining for his beautiful neighbor Carmen (Alyssa Diaz) despite her having a boyfriend; and then there’s Leena (Georgia King), an artist who cannot manage to sell a single desirable painting to any of the local galleries. Each one of them has ambitions, only to be left feeling defeated and frustrated at the end of the day. Coming back from the bar one night, and after releasing said frustrations out on one another, they uncover a hidden attic that had been sealed up behind the walls of their rundown rental house. The secret room is filled with all sorts of random paraphernalia including forgotten boxes, old furniture and a series of photos of a woman named Marissa who lived in that same house years earlier before going missing.
Tucked into one of the attic’s corners is a strange-looking device that lets the group see into – or spy on? – every room down below it and, a lonely mirror. The group quickly learns that they can pass through the looking glass after Devin stumbles and his hand disappears inside its depths. The mirror is a doorway to parallel realms, where their doppelgängers live in blissed ignorance. Of course, the four friends go about exploring and testing the mirror’s capabilities – seeing where they end up, how long their gone for and which of the many universes they end up in, seeing as the new world can alter slightly each time someone goes through. Immediately the four of them take advantage of this little secret, stealing information and ideas from the multiverses and its inhabitants and bringing it back into their own. So long as their doubles don’t see them, they’re free to come and go as they please – or so they lead themselves to believe. But they’re not the only one who learned of the mirror’s powers: the missing Marissa did as well, and she held the belief that people who were dead in one universe were still alive in the others. Despite the dangers that lurk at the edges of the minds, Devin, Noel, Leena and Josh indulge themselves more and more. This leads to conflict as some of them start to question the greyness of their morals and some of them don’t. Disastrous repercussions rapidly follow suit, hereby changing the very fabric of their lives.
Parallel is a unique twist on not only the sci-fi genre but on the “deal with the devil” trope as well. In this case, the devil is reality and they metaphorically sell their souls in order to let their curiosity and greed run rampant. The opening scene is exciting to say the least, and it draws viewers into this new, horribly familiar, haunting world that Ezban has put together. A combination of peculiar camera angles, stylish lighting choices – who knew a blue hue of all colors could be so foreboding? – and music that is quirky and eerie pulses in the background and gives life to the film. Ominousness is the thread that connects each scene, and it is sewn together well. Each member of the core four harbors personal motivations and desires for why they continue to misuse the mirror, but selfishness is a slope as slippery as success and the more the characters nurture such behavior, the deeper they unwittingly bury themselves. As the piece reaches its climax, Ezban even throws in some elements of espionage and gory horror, which is welcomed indeed.
The fabric between worlds is thin and should not be messed with, no matter how tempting. But alas, such is the way of mankind and science fiction. One world, one life, one chance, one lie, is never enough. Power is greed and power is dangerous – as Ezban’s film suggests, that danger can consume you if you aren’t careful. Beware of what you’re looking at, it may be nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Parallel is available in select cinemas and on VOD now
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95