Still from PARALLEL MINDS l Courtesy of Panic Fest

Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing in a film. Whether it’s much reliance on beautiful cinematography to hide flaws in the screenplay or far too many ideas, it’s easy to pick up on these things if there isn’t enough balance. In the case of writer/director Benjamin Ross Hayden‘s PARALLEL MINDS, there seem to be too many ideas fighting for supremacy, with whatever is meant to be the message getting lost in the shuffle. The direction provided by the actors, who veer more towards melodramatic highs rather than something with more nuanced levels, does little to keep the film tethered to the ground. Instead, it gets caught up in a metaphorical storm as the film itself goes every which way it can.

Somewhere in an alternative future, the Red-Eye Corporation is on the cusp of launching its brand new, memory-based technology. However, the mysterious death of their top-tech scientist, Elise Perrot (Michelle Thrush), draws the attention of Detective Thomas Elliot (Greg Bryk), and the scrutiny and disbelief of Perrot’s protégé, Margo Elson (Tommie-Amber Pirie). There is a conspiracy (or several) afoot as the implications of the tech loom over everyone’s heads. As Elliot and Elson go deeper down the rabbit hole, the noose around their necks grow tighter and the answers they seek become more muddled. In the realm of Red-Eye’s A.I. system, it is proving itself scarily sentient. Will the two find the answers to solve Perrot’s death? You’ll just have to watch the film to find out.

There is a lot happening plot-wise in PARALLEL MINDS that, unfortunately, has the unintended effect of facilitating a lot of confusion. With all of the plot points introduced in the span of its roughly 90-minute runtime, this reviewer thought that the concept and its ideas would have been better suited for a television series rather than a film. Part of this has to do with how the natural transitions between the different elements felt lacking which, from a viewing perspective, meant that there was a lot to try to catch up on in order to continue to follow the narrative. With a more stretched-out television series runtime, it would have benefited the storylines and the character development Hayden seemed to be attempting to do throughout the course of the film. It also would have helped fill in the gaps for the viewer.

Another issue, which may just be a matter of preference, is that the bulk of the acting performances are melodramatic and not in a good way. For such an ambitious science-fiction plot, there should be an element or two that helps grounded the feature. This helps keep things from being too unrealistic or cheesy for the viewer, especially when the viewer is required to suspend disbelief and try to follow along with the sci-fi elements unfamiliar to them. One of the ways to ground is through the actors’ performances onscreen. This was not done in PARALLEL MINDS. Greg Bryk, who plays Detective Thomas Elliot, gives the most nuanced performance, hitting the right levels when necessary and – ultimately – provides the most realistic performance. Tommie-Amber Pirie’s line delivery, in comparison, is less believable to this reviewer, with her emotional portrayal taking large swings in a way that reads more as a directional choice. Madison Walsh’s Jade Drayton reads as trying too hard, with non-subtle line deliveries that completely take one out of the film. Considering the TV Veterans featured in the film, this reviewer is more inclined to think that these performances were a result of directional choices, but could be wrong.

Of positive note is the production design as well as the cinematography featured in PARALLEL MINDS. Production Designer Mike Kasper makes great use of the budget given, creating sterile labs disconnected from the reality of the world. This contrasts well with the long winding roads of Alberta before the viewer is taken to Margot Elson’s childhood home, full of woodsy home comfort despite the tragedy that haunts its corridors. Cinematographer Jeff Maher has fun using colors to highlight these differences in location featured in the production design, utilizing cool tones for the science labs, dark shadows and reds where the A.I. is located, and capturing the plains’ variation of browns.

Overall, PARALLEL MINDS is a film that highlights the ambitions of writer/director Benjamin Ross Hayden. There are a great many ideas, interesting ones, that do fascinate the viewer. But, with the movie clocking in at under 90 minutes, it can be overwhelming and there are gaps between introduced elements that force the viewer to try to frantically put the pieces together. Had the film been stretched out into a television series, the plot elements could have been ironed out and given the focus each introduced element deserved. Between that and the performances, it does make it hard to focus and, for a science fiction film of this nature, that is not a good note to end on. This reviewer is curious to see what Hayden has in store for the future but, as ambitious features go, this was less of a success.

PARALLEL MINDS had its regional premiere at this year’s Panic Fest.

Sarah Musnicky
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