Disconnect

Disconnect photo starrating-4stars.jpgA news reporter delves into the world of a video chat room worker, a high school teen is the target of an online prank, and a couple coping with the loss of their child, fall victim to identity theft. Disconnect is an emotional character study that details how the people in a trio of interconnected stories are influenced by increasing technology. The method in which social media has infected our existence has rarely been scrutinized with such dramatic intensity.

Disconnect examines affinity amongst people, or the lack thereof. These crumbling lives are handled in a similar fashion as films like American Beauty or Paul Haggis’ Crash. The script details their collapse through social media and its influence in the Information Age. Modern technology has so infiltrated our daily routine it has an almost insidious hold over us. The way it affects our close relationships is masterfully exploited. Given the prevalence of Internet chat, digital cameras and smart phones, it’s a topic that I’m surprised isn’t studied more often in film. Perhaps the so called “threat” occupies such a pervasive place in our habits it doesn’t even seem dangerous anymore. What once was science fiction is now reality.

That people are able to connect with complete strangers online is a psychological phenomenon that is more pervasive than is ever publicly acknowledged. The girlfriend hoax that involved football player Manti Te’o in the fall of 2012 is one public example. But I suspect there are many more examples of similar occurrences we never hear about. That feeling of closeness with an unknown entity on the other side of a computer is a fascinating subject. It’s an idea ripe for drama and examined in all three of these stories.

If this was merely another cautionary tale of the dangers of technology, it might not have been so successful. After all, that concept is nothing new. What makes this account so real is the depth of human sorrow explored. Disconnect does a brilliant job of presenting individuals and their human failings. Loneliness is a pervading theme. There’s a lot of melodrama here and for the most part it presents these people with honesty and believability. In an equation where the sum of the individual vignettes must add up to the power of the overall experience, Disconnect scores very high. There are profound moments of despair. A daughter’s sobbing realization she did nothing to support her younger brother is heartbreaking. A childless couple confronted with each other’s online histories is discomforting. The online conversation between a teen bully and the victim’s father is insightful. That father is ably played by Jason Bateman in a serious turn that showcases a dramatic talent seldom seen in his comedic roles. He’s exceptional but so is everyone else in this reflection of converging lives. There isn’t a false performance in the entire lot. There’s genuine feeling on display. That’s what makes this portrait so effective.

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16 Responses to “Disconnect”

  1. I’m dying to see this one!

  2. This is the first I’ve heard of this film, but it sounds brill. Great review too. If I may ask, is there any reason why you didn’t give this 5 stars?

    • Well it’s not perfect. There are a couple moments where things descend into melodrama and the presentation feels forced. The climax unfolding in slow motion was a mistake for example.

  3. Wordschat Says:

    I will look for this for sure. In a way it is the social disconnect aspect that made me decide after years of blogging to delete my blog just days ago. Obviously I’m still connecting with you and others but I’ve scaled way back to just those on my FB. Likewise reviews when wish to have moved there. When the hobby becomes too much work adjustments are needed. I want to put the social more into the social networking, chat and such.

    • For the most part, I think technology unites us. I interact with you and many others because of my blog. Where it becomes a problem is when we neglect the people we’re close to. Next time you’re in a restaurant, notice the people fiddling around with their smart phones instead of actually conversing with each other.

      • GaryLee828 Says:

        I notice that all the time, as well. It’s annoying to me. I will definitely try to see this film soon.

  4. The acting in this movie was stellar. I completely believed each characters story. I liked the idea of using all different types of social media in the stories. Pretty powerful endings too. Loved it. 4 stars

  5. I really want to see this one, but haven’t been able to find it anywhere. Going to hold off on reading your review until I see it, but I just wanted to say that your positive review is very reassuring!

    • Every week it expands to more theaters. 180 at last count, which is the most so far, but still not a lot. I suspect if it hasn’t come to your area yet, you might have to wait for the rental.

  6. martin250 Says:

    Excellent review Mark. Your examination is spot on.

    am not sure what to add anymore. When the film was over, i immediately thought that it was great. No second thoughts.

    The closing shot of the film (in the hospital) resonates power, and was a tearjerker.

    Like you said, “What makes this account so real is the depth of human sorrow explored”..And that’s where this film excels: in portraying the emotions involved, and deeply involving us viewers.

    its a powerful film that isn’t getting noticed enough because of its discomforting topic. its similar to Crash in that way.

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