J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Reconstruction of William Zero: Cloning in Suburbia

Even though the technology is not there yet, most countries have laws on the books limiting the extent of human cloning. A geneticist with issues will demonstrate why such precautions are probably prudent. Uncertified copies will be made in Dan Bush’s The Reconstruction of William Zero (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in select cities.

When he wakes up in a suburban split-level suspiciously well-appointed with medical equipment, a man finds himself being cared for by someone claiming to be his fraternal twin. Since they are dead-ringers for each other, this should be believable. However, he would have to have been born yesterday not to be leery of the squirrely-acting fellow. Of course in his case, that is not so very far from the truth.

William Blakely was a geneticist at Next Corp, whose cloning team reached an impasse with their canine test subjects. Every proxy, as they call them, developed rapidly progressing brain tumors. Clearly, it is way too early to apply this technology to human beings. Yet, Blakely has apparently done just that. He had his motives, specifically the debilitating guilt stemming from the accidental death of his young son several years ago. As the new proxy’s artificially impressed memories kick in, he sets out to make amends for abandoning his grieving wife Jules, while his “brother” ominously shadowing him.

It is always cool when a filmmaker finds an inventive way to realize a science fiction film without a lot of effects. However, this requires a really grabby story and a mind-twisting concept. Films like Coherence, Frequencies, and the soon to be released Time Lapse have both, but Reconstruction is a little short in both departments. Granted, Bush’s first act is rather effectively disorienting, but once we all have our bearings, the film proceeds in a quite orderly manner to a disappointingly standard conclusion.

Bush opts to focus on the personal drama of a clone coming to terms with his clone-hood, which is an interesting strategy, but it does not provide much grist to turn your head inside out. As a result, it is a fine showcase for co-writer Conal Byrne, who essentially gets to play extreme versions of the same William character, all of whom/which he differentiates quite distinctly. Amy Seimetz also looks convincingly exhausted as the still hurting Jules, but her frequent co-star A.J. Bowen must bid too hasty an exit as a private investigator prowling around Blakely’s house.

A clone’s journey to self-awareness is a potentially fascinating subject, but Bush never manages to lower the dramatic boom with authority. It is the sort of film that will leave viewers wondering: “so, that’s really it then?” Its DIY scrappiness is commendable, but it needed more narrative development. Not the definitive cloning film, The Reconstruction of William Zero opens tomorrow (4/10) in Los Angeles, at the Arena Cinema.

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