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Overall Rating
3.13

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Worth A Look: 12.5%
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1 review, 2 user ratings


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Senn
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by Jay Seaver

"Occasionally slow, but enjoyably eccentric."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: I generally try not to grade the movies I see at festivals that are clearly the result of some amateur enthusiasts doing as much as they can with what little they've got much differently than the more professional world they play alongside, figuring that if they cost the same amount of money and time to see, they should be held to the same standard. I can't quite bring myself to judge "Senn" quite so harshly as a film with its flaws perhaps merits, though; there's a level of enthusiasm and charm that puts me in the mood to forgive.

It starts with how everything in the movie's world is written in a synthetic language using an alphabet that looks like the offspring of Arabic and Korean. It's a decision that, along with a few well-placed digital additions to some terrestrial industrial areas, makes for some surprisingly effective world-building. The characters are also very matter-of-fact in how they talk about their corporate wage-slavery and how the multi-planet system keeps them down, so even the bits that may seem somewhat bewildering at least give the impression of making that sort of internal sense to the characters. That sort of confidence in one's otherworldly setting is valuable, and it helps director Josh Feldman stretch what he has admirably.

The trouble is that it often seems like Feldman and co-writer/producer Britton Watkins have built a world and the rudiments of a plot but haven't refined it into a story. They start from a decent place - Senn (Zach Eulberg), his best friend Resh (Taylor Lambert), and girlfriend Kana (Lauren Taylor) build widgets for almost no pay on the corporately-owned planet Pyom, with Senn trying to hide the weird visions that occasionally cause him to zone out least he get excited to the garbage mountains, at least until an alien ship arrives and says they have need of Senn's ability to make contact with this mysterious "Polychronom". So they hop on the ship - which features an Earth-like environment and helpful artificial intelligence "We" (Wylie Herman) - and head to a mysterious space station built by a long-vanished race. And then...

Well, there's the rub; there just isn't much going on after that. We talks about four-dimensional objects casting three-dimensional shadows, but Senn's training his mind to connect with this entity is seldom something that the audience can feel a connection to; often it's just him opening his eyes from a meditative state and saying that went better. There are discussions of light profundity, existential crises that seem to resolve with a few calm words and relatively little activity, including one application of human common sense that makes the AIs look dumb rather than alien. It's frustratingly passive at points when the audience expects Senn and Kana to be doing things.

Passive doesn't necessarily mean drab, though, and there's usually something worth the viewer's attention on-screen out around the edges. The filmmakers have come up with a spiffy spaceship design, for instance, and you really can't ever have enough of those. The weird digital light shows may not be quite so trippy as the ones accomplished with old-style optical effects, but they can be pretty good. Most of the cast is decent, if sometimes pushed a little past their sweet spot when things need to get intense, with Wylie Herman doing deadpan delivery of odd lines very well. The movie is generally at its best when things get a bit peculiar, and Senn has many moments of affable eccentricity.

And, honestly, that sort of enjoyably off-kilter attitude can be in shorter supply than you might think; many indie sci-fi directors' visions tend to be either uncomfortably envelope-pushing out completely impenetrable for outsiders. "Senn" is clearly small-scale and has its weaknesses, but it has a welcoming personal touch which elevates it a notch above many similar efforts.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=26283&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/22/14 15:26:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/27/14 Uaomodnf USA 3 stars
2/24/14 nrbkiwkq USA 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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