(director/writer: Michael Bachochin; cinematographer: Connor Heck; editor: Yusef Baig; music: Aaron Gilhus; cast: Bette Smith (Linda), Hattie Smith (Mikayla), Naomi Prentice (Naomi), Nelson Ritthaler (Lucas), Taylor Flowers (Jonas), Ted Gianopulos (Dr. Hill); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Michael Bachochin/Brooke Lorraine; October Coast; 2020)
“The pacing is sluggish.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Michael Bachochin (“God Forgive Us”) is the promising writer/director of this obscure shoestring budget psychological sci-fi film on identity. To give us some clarity, the character-driven story, banks on a voice-over narration. It still takes a long time for the story to develop from being about the mentally ill to a mystery sci-fi tale, and by the time the plot kicks in for the final thirty minutes or so I’m no longer on board with such murky skull drudgery.
Naomi (Naomi Prentice) is an anxious young California artist who feels adrift in the world, thinking she’s not living in the real world but in a dream. Sometimes when painting she feels she’s been taken away to a beach, where she has an affair with a woman named Mikayla (Hattie Smith). Trouble is neither woman know one another in the real world.
In one incident, Naomi nearly drowns in the bathtub, which relates to her ongoing nightmares that she’s drowning in the world.
Things are going poorly with her conflicted live-in fiance, the computer programmer, Lucas (Nelson Ritthaler), who can’t connect with her psychological failings. At times she’s just mum and can’t recall who he is, as she wakes up in their comfy house thinking there’s a stranger in bed with her.
The couple seek psychological help for her condition from the traditional shrink Dr. Hill (Ted Gianopulos). He tries, but to no avail, to get inside her head with his textbook shrink tricks. What motivates her is her paintings, and when she paints she’s in her true elements.
The ambitious film has been released on a VOD format during the pandemic. To its credit it’s smartly written and has an off-beat view on the sci-fi genre (convincingly telling us things are not always what they seem to be). But the execution is shoddy, the pacing is sluggish, its length needed pruning and its twisty conclusion was underwhelming. However, if you can overcome all that and accept that the film rallies in the end, you might be the right viewer for this high-concept puzzler.
REVIEWED ON 7/19/2020 GRADE: C+