By Elias Savada.
There’s a glossy bio-tech veneer bubbling up in Jose Nester Marquez’s new feature, Reversion. Despite its high concept sci-fi storyline (co-scripted with Elissa Matseuda, based on a story by Marquez), apparently set in Los Angeles in the very near future, there is a low budget feel that pervades the production. Side-lit actors, spouting stilted and seemingly programmed dialogue, often act in dark settings to mask a limited amount of dollars for production design. Scenes, many shot in medium or close-up shots, play out with little or no interaction from the outside masses.
The Apple-like company run by the tight-fisted Jack Clé (played with moderated “Steve Jobs” bad ass fervor by Colm Fiore), with his strongly focused daughter Sophie (How to Get Away with Murder‘s Aja Naomi King) its energetic marketing director, doesn’t seem to have a lot of employees (lots of empty offices or workers who barely move at their desks). Hard to believe as it is on the verge of releasing Oubli, a sleek, neural earpiece/smartphone app product after a long-gestating development path. It’s expected to be the next earth-shattering, must-have piece of high tech, gold-colored jewelry that acts like a drugless catalyst that offers euphoric memories instead of forgotten or bad ones. It amplifies the joy. It’s revolutionary. “By changing your mind, you change everything,” Sophie spouts to a small focus group as the film begins. While this iEAR wannabe purports to be a great holistic and over-the-counter healer (and an integral part of the product’s advertising strategy), it’s also the springboard to the doubt and light drama filling the film’s lustrous, moody surfaces, caught by director of photography Anne Etheridge, that envelopes the rest of the film’s 84-minute running time.
Of course, this gizmo’s cute name is derivative of the French verb that translates as to forget. How the film deals with the bad stuff (memories, dreams, parents) in one’s past is what gives Reversion its edge. The origin of Oubli coincided with the memory-blocked death of Sophie’s mother, Maya (Lela Rochon Fuqua), who’s bright, blue skied, flower-filled presence now continually pops into Sophie’s consciousness. All she needs do is push-push-push the button of the individually programmed, non-FDA-approved, warm Caribbean sea blue app, which triggers a pleasant sounding tone, and a corresponding pleasure jolt to the brain via the wearable device.
Despite the constant presence of her single bodyguard/driver Ayden (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation‘s Gary Dourdan), Sophie is briefly abducted by Isa (Jeanette Samano), a hooded, mysterious Latina who wants answers to her dwindling health issues, possibly initiated by her early alpha-testing involvement with Oubli. Later they exchange phone calls and meet-ups of increasing urgency.
The sound design definitely goes for the moody. And while you get the feeling that you know where the story is heading, the results skew just slightly from expectations. Marquez’s direction is slanted toward the darkness and gloom, with a few little shocks peppering its all too familiar path. Sophie’s initial outward glow/inner happiness heads south as she starts to question her memories.
Fiore and Dourdan provide the best acting chops, with King sketching her character with increasing damsel-in-distress tropes. David Clennon is okay the family/company physician. Feature billed Amanda Plummer (as a former employee in “research and development”) has but a few dozen lines of dialogue, most of them staged as questions.
The film was produced through FLUENCY, a digital studio from Telemundo, which is owned by NBCUniversal. This unit is aimed at the Hispanic market, although Reversion covers a wider, multicultural spectrum, including an interracial marriage. FLUENCY pushed the science fiction Isa, the film feature debut of Cuban-born director Marquez, a precursor to Reversion that revolves around the character played by Jeannette Samano in both films.
Playing with pleasure-inducing New Age affirmations in a high tech conspiracy tale is an interesting notion. It doesn’t work in Reversion‘s frame of mind.
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the new horror film German Angst and co-author, with David J. Skal, of Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning.