A hard-working lawyer, attached to his cell phone, can't find the time to communicate with his family. A couple is drawn into a dangerous situation when their secrets are exposed online. A widowed ex-cop struggles to raise a mischievous son who cyber-bullies a classmate. An ambitious journalist sees a career-making story in a teen that performs on an adult-only site. They are strangers, neighbors and colleagues and their stories collide in this riveting dramatic thriller about ordinary people struggling to connect in today's wired world.
The Internet is not going away, nor are all of the potential dangers associated with spending your time "online." The nightly news covers stories about cyber bullying, companies promise to keep your identity safe by monitoring your credit report, the bank accepts photos of deposits in lieu of going to the ATM, and the SSL Certificate on a website is there to give you piece of mind when purchasing an item by entering your credit card details. Every day we live our lives connected; whether it is checking email, logging onto Facebook, tweeting the latest news, or simply browsing the web for information. It is the state of the times, and there has not been any shortage of new ways to cause harm to yourself, or another person, thanks to the digital medium we find ourselves dependent on. Director Henry-Alex Rubin, with his first narrative feature, tackles the world of online living with four different stories that all in one way or another intersect in Disconnect; a movie not about disconnecting from the online space but in reality the disconnect we find ourselves in with those close to us because of cyberspace.
The material found in Disconnect is nothing you don't already know, and the movie suffers greatly for this fact. A fresh take on the digital space, the evolving dependence on technology, and how it disconnects us from people, even those close to us, is what Disconnect aims to show. What it in fact does is regurgitate news stories that are a dime a dozen, tell us what we already know about the threats online, and delve into the ring of child pornography that has found a stable home thanks to the Internet. Cast all of this superficialness aside and you will find a great deal of emotion and depth of character in Disconnect, as well as great commentary on the subject. This is all amidst the heavy handed execution wherein Disconnect does not for one single moment allow a viewer to breathe, synthesize the information and relationships at hand, or even try to fathom the large impact the connected world we live is in fact having on our ability to communicate with one another.
The four stories break down as so: a couple has lost their child and no longer speaks to one another so the wife seeks out comfort in an online chat room, only to have her and her husband's identity stolen; a family's son is cyber-bullied leading to his attempted suicide; a father and son do not have a relationship after the mother's passing which leads the son to act out as a cyber bully, with help from Facebook; and lastly, a reporter looking to make a name for herself uses an under-age teen working for an online pornography website to get ahead, and finds herself having gotten in too deep on a personal level. In one way or another all of these stories will intersect. Some lead to violence, or the threat of it. Others delve deep into the familial relationship--the teen suicide story is the most heartbreaking as you witness a father desperately seek answers to why his son hurt himself through the person who caused his pain. Just as powerful is that of the reporter and the teen prostitute as she tries to save him with dire consequences.
Disconnect is not without its merits, or a strong sense of story. It knows what it wants to say, to show, and what it wants to hold back until the climactic moments in each storyline. The downside is the long drawn-out execution. Things move slow in Disconnect and without any form of lightness. Everything is dark, depressing, and full of some form of negative feeling. It is far too much to bear for a long period of time. It does break the happy Hollywood ending formula which is something to be proud of for director Henry-Alex Rubin and screenwriter Andrew Stern. With darkness there needs to be some sort of light, something to grasp on to to make you feel that hope is not lost for all involved. Disconnect does not provide any resolutions, any closure for the characters. They are where they have found themselves because of their choices and the future is unknown, leaving the viewer to ponder just why all of this has been shown when it has brought nothing new to any argument against living a connected lifestyle, or a new spin on what consequences prevail with such a life.
The cast of Disconnect performs each of their roles with perfection, even if the dramatics are laid on thick. Jason Bateman, taking a step away from comedy to play a dramatic role, is magnificent as the broken-hearted father desperately seeking answers about his son. Hope Davis, as his wife, is equally great in her maternal role where she steps back from being originally seen as cold to usher in a warmth based in fear. Andrea Riseborough, as reporter Nina Dunham, is sure to leave a lasting impression. The complexity of her character struggle is the strongest in the film, and the one that is most shocking in the end when she is faced to make a choice that would appear to be easy but is in fact more complicated than fathomable. Her on-screen partner Max Thieriot, as the prostitute Kyle, has finally been given a role that showcases his talent and makes you eager to se more from him in the future. Adding to the adult roles are Frank Grillo as Mike Dixon, Paula Patton as Cindy Hull, and Alexander Skarsgard as Derek Hull. While none of their characters or plotlines are very memorable they all have at least one scene that pushes them to display their talents, and they do not disappoint.
Of the children in Disconnect there is one that stands out above all the rest, Colin Ford as Jason Dixon. A tormented soul, who misses his mother and loathes his father, he is playing into the expected role of being a troublemaker. He cyber bullies a kid in school because it will be fun; and then finds himself seeking the comfort of that boy as a friend when he realizes he is in fact just as lonely. The dichotomy of his character is the most fleshed out in Disconnect and Colin demonstrates he is extremely talented. He manages to play tough, while being consumed with pain and guilt. It is a performance to be proud of for a young talent. Disconnect may not be the best executed or original story but the acting is undoubtedly above par.