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by Jay Seaver

"Back, forth, and sideways in time."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: It's not quite ideal that my strongest reaction to "Parallel" is to note its strong fundamentals - that the filmmakers keep a potentially-confusing picture clear is great, but this is a love story; shouldn't that be what sticks the best? The film is decent on that count, though, so viewers looking for a bit of science fiction more character-based than action-packed should not be disappointed.

As one may guess, the title refers to parallel worlds, and we initially see Dr. Vincent Jeffries (Terence Cranendonk) in two. One is seemingly hostile and unpopulated; the other has him attending a lecture by his mentor Stewart (Richard Portnow) at a conference on mathematics and physics. That's where he makes the acquaintance of Keira Benjamin (Liz DuChez), who is part of the staff. There is clearly chemistry there, but he pushes her away, and not just because he has a big trip to make.

Being that this is a love story, and small enough in scale that the audience is going to be spending a fair chunk of time with this small group of characters, a decent cast is no small thing. Terence Cranendonk and Liz DuChez give performances that are more likely to please than truly amaze the audience, but that's okay for this movie. Cranendonk is maybe a little bit more abrasive than Vincent really needs to be, while DuChez plays Keira as almost too good-natured to be true, but the pair do click together; there's a definite feeling of chemistry between Vincent and Keira that is more than just "opposites attract". And speaking of opposites, writer Keith Nickoson and co-director John Turk don't make the hackneyed choice of the various alternate universes containing doppelgangers with vastly different personalities. The various iterations of these characters certainly reflect different circumstances, but the cores are similar.

That could be a potentially tricky choice, because the film does not just cut between universes, but loops back in time on occasion. It's not a particularly complex puzzle-box of a movie, but it is one where missing the target between a simple linear progression and one that requires note-taking would distract from the film's virtues. As it is, the movie still sometimes leans a little too hard on the forced equivalences of fate, and the end seems to change the rules a bit more than its completely satisfying.

It goes down smoothly enough, though. Nickoson and Turk seem to have a good understanding of where it won't hurt to lay things on a little bit thick and where they're best off leaving a little mystery. The science fiction elements are not generally flashy, but they're effective - the design for the console used to control the reality-hopping technology is especially cool, and the filmmakers do squeeze the most apocalyptic bang from their bucks when they have to.

"Parallel" is nice all around, the sort of thing that fills a genre festival's schedule out as a change of pace. For a lot of people doing something at this scale with this level of responsibility for the first time, it's fairly impressive, enough to hope they keep moving forward.

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originally posted: 03/21/15 16:03:32
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2015 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  John Turk

Written by
  Keith Nickoson

  Amy Cates
  Alexa Lee
  Eric David
  Gayle DuChez

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