Director: Henry Alex Rubin
It could be easy to be cynical about Disconnect – in much the same way as we laugh off the many Facebook posts and tweets imploring us to spend less time online; you chuckle at the irony of how you received this news then figure it doesn’t apply to you anyway, you have a handle on it all. It’s all those others who don’t.
But what makes Disconnect – and its telling of three separate tales of the, well, dark side of the internet – work is the very human performances, the beautiful score by Max Richter, the clever pacing, the keen eye of the director, the way the film treats this subject so seriously and yet doesn’t try to cram in a huge moral message. It’s there if you want to see it – it’s clear too. Sure. But it’s not some lazily pitched Hallmark version of sensitivity. Instead the film plays out in similar fashion to David Schwimmer’s dark, brutal but excellent Trust and I was reminded too of Traffic. Rubin’s film plays out in a similar way to Traffic, the storylines separate but, in the end, overlapping. The final judgment for the audience, the action suspended – and technically there’s the feel of Steven Soderbergh about this picture too, the moody way its shot, the use of evocative score, Richter essentially filling the role that Cliff Martinez also offers so well.
So, sure, there are clichés here – the couple who end up victims of a credit card scam were growing apart, they have a secret that has troubled their marriage. The teen suffering from a callous round of internet bullying – a cruel joke taken way too far – is a loner, he is detached from his father, they couldn’t connect before this, so how and why would he go to his parents with his problems. And the ambitious journalist so desperate for a story is found to be something of a liar – yes, these are all traits that could be watercolour-applied to any thin sketch of these sorts of characters but that’s not what the film is concerned with – it’s trying to serve up a cautionary tale, a dark fable. And for that it succeeds. Also those character traits might appear obvious but that doesn’t mean they’re not valid.
Disconnect doesn’t have the troubling punch of Trust to it – it’s not as haunting, but it’s still a worthwhile film, one that gives you something to think about, one that offers strong performances from a great cast. One that you’ll think about after – it might not make you change your online behaviour, you might not need to, but it might make you (further) aware of the simple lures that turn around to show nothing but ugliness, nothing but evil.
I thought Disconnect did well as a cautionary tale.