We are living in a parallel world…
Heather and Neil meet at a party and fall in love. One day, fate intervenes as they meet a medium who claims he can show them their mirror selves living in an alternate world.
Parallel the film AVAILABLE NOW at http://www.parallelthefilm.com and Amazon Video Direct, Alexander Cooper
Alexander Cooper, seen in such movies as The Imitation Game (2014), Woman in Gold (2015) and London Has Fallen (2016) – with Benedict Cumberbatch, Ryan Reynolds and Gerard Butler respectively – contacted me about reviewing his movie Parallel (2016). This film, Cooper’s first stab at production with the film’s writer David Magowan, with both men also starring in the movie. The film tagline sounded intriguing with the question “Dare you look at your other side?” And with this ringing in my head, I entered the Parallel movie. This a chilling, psychological drama movie (with some erotic content) with an eerie twist in the tale.
The film starts with a young pretty and shy blonde, Heather (Faye Sewell) as she arrives at her boss Anna’s (Melissa Veszi) birthday party. The demurely dressed Heather is approached by the muscular, handsome Neil (David Magowan) almost immediately. Neil tries it on with her with what seems like one of the most awful attempts at pulling ever. Spotting wine in her hand, he tells her of how people who drink red wine and white wine have different positive attributes. On finding out she drinks both, he says she’s just perfect (aw), then admits it was a crap line to chat her up. As the pair chat amiably, Neil shows a good sense of humour with Heather retorting admirably to his patter. The pair almost immediately having a fun rapport and chemistry.
Neil drags her away from the party and the pair snog, and start dating. They appear very compatible, have lots in common and seem pretty loved up. One day whilst out walking together, Heather notices a man has dropped his wallet and she returns it him. And this enigmatic stranger – in a big hat and trench coat – introduces himself as John Machlis (Brian Carter). The charismatic Machlis claims to be a psychic, with Heather interested and Neil sceptical of this claim. The three talk more and we discover he has only a few clients, Machlis adding cryptically only a few like what he tells them. The pair visit him. with Heather keen for a “reading”. Machlis explains that he is able to let see them their alternate selves who live in a parallel universe to our world. And not your typical medium.
Machlis adds these alternates are seen to have different motivations. Machlis stressing as in the real world Heather and David are good people, and their alternates will be opposite in character. Neil continues to doubt him. Heather, still believing, is interested visiting in her parallel self. Under Machlis’ calm voice and instruction she observes her alternate self. The film here switching to black and white, shows “Heather” in this alternate existence. Heather sees her alternate back at the party and more assertive with men, with a stark contrast in her dress and physical appearance even noticeable in this colourless world. Here “Heather” taking the lead in chatting up another man. He introduces himself as Roy (Daniel Westwood) and that he works in the graphics department. After they chat a while, he’s a bit overly sexual and flirty. He invites her to join in him at an address, giving her the keys and is more than confident she’ll come.
Heather returns to the “real world” (as we return to the story continuing in colour). Neil asks her about the experience and appears upset about Roy’s role in Heather’s story. Neil tells Heather he loves her and she says she loves him too. After Heather returns secretly to revisit her other self, she becomes upset seeing her alternate making out with Roy rather than Neil. Neil on finding out she went back, confronts Machlis about Heather’s experiences. Neil remains unconvinced. However, Machlis persuades him visit his alternate self. Neil, also returns to the party is confronted by forceful colleague named Rhianna (Francesca Sgro). Rhianna treats him badly and is physically abusive and hostile to him. But this later seen as part of their mutual and sexual attraction.
Heather and Neil then revisit Machlis – without the other knowing – to learn more and revisit of their other selves. Both their alternates appear more thrill seeking, aggressive and sexually adventurous compared to their real life selves. Their alternate partners of Roy and Rhianna also have a more dark and aggressive side to their personalities. In time, Machlis opens up to Heather, sharing how he inherited this gift from his mother and how she showed him an alternate world to theirs. Their lives at the time being one where he never met his father, and his mother a drug user. His alternate living in a world where he was loved,. He also tells Heather that alternates can cross over when someone with the gift dies… as he did when his mother died. And only one of the alternates can live in each world….
This story was engaging from the start with the film credits and opening score have a dark and spooky overtone to them. These along with the bold white credits flickering to show their mirror image in red immediately getting your attention. This theme continued into the opening shot showing the flickering of the lights of windows where the party was being held.
It led us into the whirlwind romance of Heather and Neil straight away, and I enjoyed watching their loved up relationship develop in the real (colour) world. However on the introduction of Machlis as a psychic, it felt doomed, as soon as Heather mentioned visiting Machlis for a reading. It was a nice touch that the parallel world was seen in black and white, differentiating this world from ours. This making it less confusing than other alternate reality tales. And also in observing their character differences in each of the worlds both subtle, and more obvious.
With the real world inherently good, and the parallel world bad. It was interesting that Heather became more sickened by her alternate’s aggressive and impulsive behaviour. And how she almost felt unfaithful to her real life partner Neil in her relationship with Roy. Neil almost revelled in his alternate. His encounters with Rhianna became more sexually adventurous compared to his more playful relationship with Heather. I felt the graphic sex scenes were not needed but reinforced the differences in Neil’s worlds. He then almost keen to return to this alternate world, and revisited Machlis more regularly, until things became too dark.
I felt it would have been nice in these opening shots to see the alternates in the real world for Roy and Rhianna before meeting them in the parallel story. This to reinforce the story line and give us a more rounded perspective of the different worlds. Perhaps even playing a couple attending the party or as friends of the lead characters. Carter as Machlis, felt enigmatic and an interesting character from the start and his initial striking appearance unsettling. And his readings, a unique way of introducing the use of this parallel world in the story line. It was interesting in observing his initial use of relaxation and visualisation to relax and bring them to this different world. This leading to a debate on whether this world was in their characters imagination or through hypnosis to see their polar opposite. Or if this was a reality.
With these questions echoing in your head on their revisits and seeing their experiences as the film progressed. When Machlis spoke to Heather about his life, this gave more depth and understanding to his character. But I almost felt this part of the story, should have been in his initial scenes as this almost accelerated the story line. And the final twist was not one I could have foreseen, as one that left you wondering and hoping for an after the credits scene.
The leads gave a likeable and believable performance in their roles. With the script, Heather and Neil’s opposing views to this world at the start of the film, made their characters relatable and you were able to empathise well with their part in the story as things progressed. Together they seemed a sweet couple, and their on-screen chemistry a delight to watch. Carter made his character unreadable as either the more honest or dishonest one of these three leads. As he warned the couple of the implications to visiting these worlds if you believed his parallel story and their meeting by chance. Or was it an orchestrated meeting and Machlis a fake using suggestion and visualisation to con them with false beliefs.
I loved the twists and turns and questions raised by the script, and the unpredictable ending led me hoping for a sequel. And for future Magowan scripts relating to the parallel world. Perhaps with a prequel with more of Machlis origin story or the stories other clients he has worked with. Alternatively concentrating on the other characters in the story and their parallel worlds. And although I did not know any of the cast list of this immediately I recognised many titles from my DVD collection in their imdb pages. This film in combination with their CV including roles in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) for Sewell, and Legend (2015), Eddie the Eagle (2016) and Spectre (2015) for Westwood promoted them and others – along with those Alexander Cooper films mentioned at the start of this post – immediately as some acting calibre to look out for then, now, and in the future. And in a parallel world, we should revisit them in those leading roles with Cooper heading the billing and Cumberbatch, Reynolds and Butler supporting. Or would they have roles in a completely different story. Or are things really that black and white?
A wee disclaimer and personal thank you to Alexander Cooper for asking me to write this post. Financial compensation was not received for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own. I would also like to add that Alexander kindly personally agreed to me using these videos and pictures of him and his work in my blog. And tune in soon for a exclusive interview with Alex Cooper about this movie, and his work in the soon to be released, Sandow.
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