A funny thing, technology; does anyone still feel connected by it? John Cooper doesn't. He performs his job skillfully, sees a shrink for his depression, and dutifully visits Facebook and other online outlets, but is it just loneliness he's feeling or something more? Connected, written and directed by Dave Ash, is the story of one man's search for something real in a world that fast seems to be losing its humanity altogether.
We meet John (Clarence Wethern) on somewhat of an upswing--his boss has just handpicked him to lead a coding project that focuses on artificial intelligence--but emotionally, John is struggling. Most of the people in his life seem disconnected, overly plastic, or patronizing, but when John meets Emily (Bethany Ford), a writer, he's immediately drawn in, captivated by her realness, which is a contrast to virtually everything else in his life. Things aren't easy for these two, and maybe never will be, but John's offhand comment, "I just want to feel something," rings the truest of any, and many of us can relate. The story becomes a series of decisions, by both John and Emily, over whether or not they want to move forward together given their separate past traumas and wounded feelings in a volatile world that seems to have hustled past them.
As a production, the work is a solid one: the cast is well-directed and performs incredibly together, leads Wethern and Ford most of all. Wethern's range of stoicism, anxiety, and awkward discomfort contrast well with Ford's reserved caution and later heavy emotion--though they come from two very different places (science and art, respectively) both characters are similarly broken, and both actors convey this effectively and believably.
Also noteworthy are many of the technical aspects of the film: the scenes dealing with John's disconnected but patronizing psychiatrist and many of the exchanges in the workplace were done with a handheld camera, seeming almost uncomfortably long and shaky at times, but contrasted with the steadiness of John's many scenes with Emily (together with the changes in music and more saturated color) these choices nicely illustrate John's own discomfort and inner instability, especially when underscored with a low, wavering instrumental theme that hints at a future breaking point not too far off. Undoubtedly the most hopeful moment of the film comes as John becomes fully absorbed in Emily, visualizing a happy future together where even objects like snow and pajamas seem joyful (brought about by all things--Emily's excitement over a book!) Would that things could always be so rosy.
If the film is trying to tell us something, it's almost certainly to find the real in life--find the real and don't mess it up.
Connected will premiere at the St. Anthony Main Theater as a selection for the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival (MUFF) Thursday, October 3 at 7:15pm. Advance tickets are available through the MUFF website.