Henry Alex Rubin’s “Disconnect” is a combination of connecting stories dealing with human interaction in today’s technological world. The title brings to mind the possibility of disconnecting from the phones, laptops, tablets, and multiple other devices that we use every day, but in another sense, it refers to the disconnect between people due to the constant use of these devices. Sure it’s fun to call someone up, text, play games, and surf the web, but when you think about it, there’s not really any real human interaction going on. “Disconnect” acts as a kind of general warning against this, as well as other dangers that can occur when you spend too much time with machines as opposed to living, breathing human beings.
The three interconnecting stories are mingled together in a similar fashion to Paul Haggis’ Oscar-winning “Crash.” One involves Kyle (Max Thieriot), a young man who gets paid to perform sexual acts on his webcam for customers. A journalist, Nina (Andrea Riseborough), discovers him online and wants to conduct an interview, which eventually leads her to want to help him escape from his dark world. The second story features Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo), a teenager with no friends. A couple of cruel classmates, Jason (Colin Ford) and Frye (Aviad Bernstein), decide that it would be funny to set up a fake Facebook account and start up a conversation with him, an act which ends up having some serious consequences when they take it too far. The final story involves Derek (Alexander Skarsgard) and Cindy Hull (Paula Patton), who have had their identities stolen along with every penny in their bank account. Their tale deals with the lengths they are willing to go to set things right.
The lack of social interaction and the dangers within become all too clear as the stories play out. Kyle, while he does interact with his friends and fellow “employees,” subjects himself to anyone and everyone willing to pay for some private chat time on the site. He doesn’t feel used by his employer and even admits to liking what he does, but Nina wants to help him anyway, even if he can’t see the serious risk involved in such an activity.
Ben, in what ends up being the best story of the three, is so desperate for some human interaction that he engages in a conversation with someone online that he doesn’t even know in real life. At first, you feel kind of bad for the kid what with him having no friends and a family that seems like they couldn’t care less about his activities, but as Jason and Frye’s prank starts to get more serious, and you see what Ben is willing to do to keep talking to his “friend,” the feeling starts to taper off a bit.
Without going into too many spoilers here, Ben ends up doing something that no one would do in this situation, especially when it involves someone you’ve never met before. This leads to a rather predictable reaction on Ben’s part, but it also launches the second part of his story, which involves his father, Rich (Jason Bateman), doing everything he can to discover what happened. In the process, he discovers that he doesn’t really know anything about his son. In the case of this story, predictability was just the beginning of the tale. However, it ends up leading to something much more satisfying.
Derek and Cindy’s story, which arguably ends up being the weakest of the three, has Cindy trying to open up to a stranger she met online about her son that passed away. Apparently Derek has not been willing to talk about it very much with her, leading to her reaching out to someone she doesn’t even know to discuss it. Eventually Derek comes to learn of her discussions, but unfortunately this is where this story falters a bit. The issue of their lack of interaction is brought up, but it’s never fully discussed. The other two stories take the time to discuss their issues, but this one seems as hesitant as Derek to discuss it. To make matters worse, the climax of their story doesn’t make much sense. I guess they needed something to happen, even if it didn’t fit well into the plot.
For the most part, these stories work really well together, with their messages coming across loud and clear. Andrew Stern’s screenplay weaves them together in such a way that the pieces fit logically, making smooth switches between the various stories as the film plays out. It’s quite a feat to make an audience care about so many characters in a film that doesn’t even run a full two hours, but the way Rubin and Stern have put the film together makes it engaging and thought-provoking with its important and timely issues.
As far as issues with the film itself, there are only a couple that I had. There are times where the film strays a bit into the melodramatic, particularly with the climax of each of the tales, and a time or two where it just comes off as goofy. I’m thinking in particular of some silly slow-motion shots that didn’t need to be there, but luckily they don’t ruin the buildup. The other problem is with the film’s ending, or rather, the endings of all three stories. These could have all used a little work so that it didn’t come across as though the writer just quit, giving it the feeling that there should be a part two. Not every film needs to give closure, but it also shouldn’t seem like someone suddenly hit stop on the player, leaving nothing resolved.
While “Disconnect” may not offer anything new to the argument against the overuse of technology, it remains a well-made film with strong performances from the entire cast. Hopefully, if anything, it’ll at least make you think about how much time you spend online versus time spent around actual people. It’s rare to see a film that floats along this effortlessly while jumping around between different stories. This could have been a rather jarring film, but somehow they made all of the elements come together to their advantage, resulting in something that’s pretty effective.
The film itself is presented in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that doesn’t really have any issues to speak of. The whole film is draped in a kind of drab color scheme, but the picture remains perfectly sharp throughout. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is likewise perfect in its crystal-clear quality. The only time where it might be slightly difficult to hear is when Kyle’s on the webcam, but you don’t have to strain particularly hard. As with most Blu-rays, there is not much to complain about here.
Special features on the disc include the following:
- Audio Commentary with the Director
- Making the Connection: Behind the Scenes of Disconnect
- Music Recording Session
Starting off with the commentary, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. For every little insight Rubin gives you, he spends just as much time describing what’s going on on screen or telling us who is playing what part. The Recording Session is just that, watching some of the music being performed and the composer discussing it with the musicians. Not really anything worth watching. Apparently the studio didn’t really think so either as they neglected to mention it on the back of the Blu-ray box. The one extra that is worth taking a look at is the “Making of.” It runs about 30 minutes and features interviews with cast and crew discussing the characters, stories, themes, and the director. Pretty interesting stuff, particularly for those who are interested in hearing what they felt the film was really about.
Overall, this is a pretty good Blu-ray release. It might have been nice to have a little more in the way of behind the scenes extras, but it’s hard to complain when you get a good 30-minute in-depth series of interviews. This is one of those movies that didn’t get much attention when it came out back in April, so now’s as good a time as any to finally check it out. Hopefully you’ll connect with it as well.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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This review is based on a copy of the Blu-ray received for reviewing purposes.