Directed by: Henry Alex Rubin
Written: Andrew Stern
Stars: Jason Bateman, Jonah Bobo, Haley Ramm
This week for date night we went to watch Henry Rubin’s latest film, Disconnect. We were deciding between The Company You Keep, Disconnect or Now You See Me, but the generally poor reviews and appearance of superpowers in the other two steered us away. Whilst probably not your typical date night movie, it was powerful and deeply impacting in a way that I wish more films were.
The subject matter of the film was what drew me to the film in the first place – the increasingly destructive presence of digital connections in our lives which leave us further apart from one another and disconnected from the present. Whilst I love my iPhone and 3G connection, I’m trying to take steps to curb my addiction to social media. The constant need for a ‘like’ on a new Instagram picture or the instinctual act of refreshing my twitter feed seconds after I’ve already done so are areas that need addressing. But I digress.
To sum up briefly, the film follows three separate but slightly interconnected stories. The catalyst in each story is the use of digital communication and central role it plays in the disaster that ensues. Cindy and Derek, a young married couple grieving the loss of their infant son, have their marriage placed under fire when their identities are stolen via an online grievers support chat room. Robbed of everything and barely looking at one another anymore, they have their dark habits revealed by private investigator Mike Dixon (Frank Grillo) as he tries to uncover the source of the fraud.
Whilst probably the weakest of the three narratives, Cindy and Derek’s story paints an eyeopening and heartbreaking picture of a marriage that has been hollowed out by a tragedy and the growing coldness of two lives. As Derek decides in a moment of determination, to take matters in his own hands and confront the suspected fraudster, we’re presented with a vivid account of the lengths someone would go to when they’re at a point of desperation. Everything in me screamed at him to allow the police and due process to take its course. It’s in these desperate situations that people are driven by frustration to do emotional and irrational decisions they could live to regret for the rest of their lives. Cindy and Derek’s trial did have the positive outcome of drawing them closer together again, but it could easily have gone the other way and ended up in another tragedy.
The second story is that of ambitious reporter Nina Dunham and Internet ‘sex model’ Kyle who can’t be a day older than 18. If you are uncertain as to what a sex model is, let me save you from the potential mine field you’ll land in should you try Google it. Essentially, Kyle is one of a number of underage youths who are pimped out to paying customers to interact with via chat and Skype-like forums. Nina makes contact with Kyle eventually resulting in a CNN interview, exposing the exploitation that is taking place. Kyle is a good looking and seemingly confident kid who knows how to please his pimp and clientele, but beneath the shallow surface he’s a lonely and insecure youngster, caught up in a horrible world of drugs and exploitation.
By far the most gripping, wrenching and cautionary of tales told in the film is that of Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo) and teenage bullies Jason (Colin Ford) and Frye (Aviad Bernstein). Son of hotshot lawyer Rich played superbly by Jason Bateman, Ben is an awkward, ‘emo’ looking teenager who loves his music – and appears to be pretty darn good at it. His father is forever connected to his Blackberry and their relationship is all but nonexistent. I don’t doubt there’ll be a new generation of absent fathers and husbands (as well as wives and mothers) lost not to business trips and long work hours necessarily but to their devices and constant connection to everyone else but those closest to them.
Disconnect does some things very well, in my opinion. Firstly, the performances are superb. Jason Bateman and Frank Grillo produce some tragically realistic performances as fathers radically detached from their sons. Likewise, Colin Ford and Max Thieret who plays Kyle, are also very impressive. Kyle as mentioned above does well to mask the insecurity of his lonely character with the false bravado and confidence that he struts so well.
Ultimately I think the direction by Rubin deserves praising. Disconnect provides a spine-chilling window into the potential harsh realities of middle class life. Personally I always thought bullying was something that was inevitable and par of the course for kids. But having watched this, I now have a far greater understanding of the seriousness of the issue.
Every now and then I do enjoy a great heist drama, spy thriller or genuinely funny comedy, but its films like Disconnect that I always enjoy watching and believe should be produced more often – not because they entertain me for a mere 90 odd minutes, but because they have a lasting impact on my thoughts and actions long afterwards.