Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The surprise "find" of the year so far: Darren Paul Fisher's enchanting, original FREQUENCIES

This new film, as it moves along, sprightly and efficient, may remind you of everything from Primer, Pi and Pontypool to Never Let Me Go and 1984. That's quite a range, I know, and in the end, FREQUENCIES, doesn't necessarily rise above any of those fine and groundbreaking works, but it makes its own mark as an original sci-fi rom-com with a theme that questions whether we humans act as sentient beings who possess free will or are simply machines that can be persuaded to do the bidding of -- guess who? -- yeah, that one per cent.

In fact, how the film's writer/director, Darren Paul Fisher (shown at right) chooses to present the powers-that-be (or their representatives) is especially clever and interesting. But then, just about everything in this film is clever and interesting and simply beautifully assembled and acted. Other than Rob the Mob, Frequencies is now my biggest movie pleasure of the year -- with not a trace of guilt (as in guilty pleasure) to be found. Because TrustMovies had not heard of of Mr. Fisher previously, nor of anyone else connected to the film (including its excellent cast), I assumed this must be his and their "first time out." Wrong. The film's lead actors have made a number of other movies, and beginning back in 2001, Fisher himself has written and directed Inbetweeners and then Popcorn (2007), neither of which caused much fuss.
Frequencies surely will.

Taking place in either some future period (or maybe one of those alternate universes filmmakers seem to love), Fisher's tale tells of a time when one's "frequency" (which seems to be some kind of physics terms as used here), like one's IQ in our own time, is used to predict what level in life one can achieve.

Class is preserved via the fact that low frequencies can never hope to mingle with their high-frequency betters -- which makes it not a little difficult for our two kids -- who are immediately drawn to each other but kept separate, for, of course, their own good and that of society's at large. Indeed, when they do try to connect, furniture rumbles, the earth begins to shake, and who knows what else might happen when frequencies mix.

The movie follows these kids -- Zak and Marie -- from childhood (two photos up) through adolescence (above) to young adulthood (below) as they and one of Zak's best friends, Theo, try various projects and experiments to make the relationship work.

The movie is by turns funny and sweet, poetic and sad as it offers up science and philosophy, music and words, in a world that so closely resembles our own as to be perfectly understandable yet just out of reach. There has not been a movie in quite some time that hits its audience so firmly via the imagination, mind and heart.

And, oh, those performances! The two sets of kids are fine, but the young adult versions of Zak and Marie, played by Eleanor Wyld (above) and Daniel Fraser (below) are simply stupendous. It's rare enough to see young actors so vitally attuned to the moment. And when these moments are full of oddity and swift, sudden changes, it must be even more difficult to convey. Thanks to Wyld and Fraser and to the filmmaker's splendid use of their wonderfully expressive faces, we live through every one of these changes to the fullest.

Enchantingly smart and stylish in its approach to 1984-type mind control and the possibility of love, Frequencies uses science, sound waves and even pronunciation (shades of Pontypool!) to marvelous effect. In one scene alone, the slight change in the color palette speaks volumes and produces wonders.

The movie, intellectually stimulating as well as romantic, will keep you riveted -- with pleasure as much as suspense and wonder. And if the journey is more spectacular than the destination, I am happy to report that there is indeed a destination. Even if it the solution doesn't actually solve much, that may be the point of this witty, charming, ambitious piece of popular entertainment/art.

From FilmBuff (that very-smart-about-independent-film distributor, the entire existence of which is more than paid back by giving us this one movie), via the U.K. and Australia, and running 105 minutes, Frequencies releases in theaters this Friday, May 23. Here in NYC it's at the Cinema Village, at the Los Feliz 3 in Los Angeles (only on Thursday, May 22), and the Loraine Palace in Cleveland. Next week it'll open in Dallas, Houston, Denver, Atlanta, and San Francisco, with a wider rollout to follow. For those of you not living in the aforementioned cities, the film will hit VOD and iTunes this Thursday, May 22. So you've simply no excuse not to see it.

UPDATE! Frequencies is now available to stream on Netflix
So there's absolutely no reason for you not to see it.

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