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Reconstruction of William Zero, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Excellent, atmospheric science fiction; as far from zero as it gets."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: As much as it's fun to be one of the first people to see a movie, it's kind of frustrating when you want to talk about the thing you've seen right away, but the only people you can do so with are the ones who were in that room - and, because it's a film festival, we're all rushing to the next movie. "The Reconstruction of William Zero" is likely to be one of my favorites of the festival, and I want more folks to see it, but I do not want to give things away.

It starts out playing a few tricks with time, as geneticist William Blakely (Conal Byrne) rushes from his home with wife Jules (Amy Seimetz) and son Kevin to get to work. At the same time, he's being revived by his twin in a new home, suffering from near-complete amnesia after a stupid automobile accident, learning anew that he and Jules have been separated for four years. He's got to relearn everything - and he's been making a start via experimental methods - and some of what he learns is strange and horrifying.

There's a throwback quality to Reconstruction, from the eighties-style production company logos to a lot of the set decoration and costuming - in fact, I'd peg it for a period piece if not for the mobile phones, RFID keycards, and tablet computers that show up as well (it's occasionally kind of distracting if you tend to watch closely enough to try and find an in-story reason for the old tech aside from the atmosphere it creates). Mostly, though, that comes from the way the movie builds and paces itself - director Dan Bush and co-writer Conal Byrne establish a chilly atmosphere early on, letting the audience and characters in on what's happening early enough that they can watch things play out while also letting the audience chew on the ethics of the situation. A good chunk of the effects budget is used on having Conal Byrne play against himself.

This is something to be thankful for, because Byrne is fantastic. It is tremendously important that the audience be able to tell the difference between his roles very quickly in any given scene, but the way that the story twists and turns means that he and Bush must stay away from some of the really obvious signifiers in make-up, wardrobe, or particular tics often used to differentiate one twin from another. Instead, he often manages to come up with chilly or empathetic versions of the same mannerisms that are seldom particularly broad but always easy to pick up on. And it's not just that he differentiates the performances; he's pretty great no matter who he's playing at a given moment, whether heartbreaking or monstrous.

It's not quite a one-man show, but everyone else is decidedly secondary. They are excellent supporting roles, though, particularly Amy Seimetz as the similarly broken Jules and Adam Fristoe as the corporate investigator who thinks he's got a handle on what is going on with William (although, given the nature of the movie, it's a bit distracting that he looks somewhat similar to Byrne). We don't see a lot of the staff at Next Corporation, but Lake Roberts, Tim Habeger, and Melissa McBride do good work establishing an atmosphere there without populating it with overbearing stereotypes.

That adds an extra layer of creepiness to what is already a science fiction movie with plenty of disturbing implications, and while the film doesn't dig into those too much, it handles the main issues very well. There is some creepy bathtub science going on in the Blakely residence, and Bush manages to get the spine tingling at the idea without gross-out shocks, for instance. He also plays a nice shell game with the twins when the time comes, including one excellent mid-film sequence that has a lot going on that the audience needs to know but which never needs to stop and explain what we are seeing. There are some holes and jumps, but Bush and company handle the important stuff well enough that the audience likely won't mind.

Indeed, it's a great little movie, right down to the descriptive and evocative title (please, whoever winds up distributing this, do not go [back] to a generic "The _____" name). Audiences looking for heady, suspenseful, character-based science fiction should not pass this up when it surfaces for a wider audience.

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originally posted: 07/22/14 04:22:04
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Dan Bush

Written by
  Dan Bush
  Conal Byrne

  Conal Byrne
  Amy Seimetz
  Tim Habeger
  Adam Fristoe
  Scott Poythress
  Lake Roberts
  Melissa McBride
  Jeff Rose

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