Isaac Ezban's 'Parallel': Fun and Thrilling Time Travel Fodder

The four friends find a special mirror
[L-R] Aml Ameen as DEVIN, Martin Wallstrom as NOEL, Georgia King as LEENA, and Mark O'Brien as JOSH in Isaac Ezban's PARALLEL

In recent year, films and television exploring time travel, multiverse theory, and parallel worlds have been trending (although they have always been around for those looking). While such stories can have any tone (think romantic in About Time or humorous in the Bill & Ted trilogy), the latest offerings coming to the forefront lean heavily on the side of quiet, serious, philosophical, or thought-provoking. Characters wrestle with the deep implications of their choices (Coherence) and/or want to stop traumatic or cataclysmic events from occurring (11-22-63; Dark).

Mexican film director Isaac Ezban veers a different direction to create his newest feature-length film Parallel -- a film that is more of a thrill ride than a thought experiment. The characters in Parallel don't set out to change the past; instead, they play out a classic "Be careful what you wish for" scenario -- with disastrous results. With a screenplay written by newcomer Scott Blaszak (a freelance writer and multimedia producer), Ezban pays homage to Twilight Zone episodes from the past and keeps the proceedings fun and nail-biting. One need not be a science nerd to appreciate Parallel, which will draw some audiences and possibly annoy others. 

Noel and Leena look through the scope
[L-R] NOEL (Martin Wallstrom) and LEENA (Georgia King) look through a scope that allows them to view the house in parallel worlds in Issac Ezban's PARALLEL

Ezban directed and wrote two other feature-length critically acclaimed science fiction films in Mexico: The Incident (about an endless staircase) and The Similars (about a group of people trapped in an isolated bus stop). Parallel is his first film made in America. 

Four young, whip-smart millennials have joined brains and households to create a parking app called Meter Maid (not the most creative name, but I digress): Idea man Devin (Aml Ameen; Yardie), graphic designer Leena (Georgia King; "The New Normal"), and developers Noel (Martin Wallström; "Mr. Robot) and Josh (Mark O'Brien; Ready or Not). After dedicating much time and effort to the project, the group discovers that a rival competitor has come forward who can make the same product quicker. The group licks their wounds and believes this is the end for their awesome foursome; they have run out of money. In the midst of their fight, they discover a secret room in the house that contains a magical mirror. When turned at just the right angle, it serves as a portal into infinite parallel worlds, with one key difference -- time moves quicker in the mirror world.

Devin meets his Dad
DEVIN (Aml Ameen) gets to talk to his father (David Harewood) in Isaac Ezban's PARALLEL 

Noel and Josh enter the mirror world and set to work on completing the development on the Meter Maid app, winning the bid and getting paid at last. As the rules of such stories dictates, the group doesn't stop using the mirror -- instead, they keep using its time-bending powers for their benefit. At first, it's all fun and games, with fancy dinners, new toys, and consumable goods that the group enjoys in wonder. But as the mood shifts from recreation to ambition, each person tries to use the mirror to make their most secret dreams come true. The risks increase, and people who get in the way become dispensable objects. Each person in the team must wrestle with how far they are willing to go. 

The first half of Parallel feels taut and suspenseful. The events play out in a way that is realistic and fun to watch. Some clever dialogue by Blaszak helps develop and define the characters and their personalities. When the tone shifts from snappy and amusing to serious and high-stakes, the picture suffers and begins to drag. A romance between two of the characters feels forced and unnecessary. Luckily, the twists and turns keep things from going stagnant. A subplot involving Devin (the only one of the group with an agenda other than self-promotion) holds interest, both because of some heartwarming dialogue that happens between the pair and some interesting camera work used to film their interaction. In the end, the strength of the first half and the brevity of the second should keep most viewers engaged enough to want to see the final climax. 

Georgia looks in a mirror
Georgia King as LEENA in Isaac Ezban's PARALLEL

Movie composer Edy Lan, who has worked with Ezban in most of his other projects, creates a film score reminiscent of the works of Bernard Herrmann and Elmer Bernstein. Fans of classic 1960s movie scores will easily identify many of the chord progressions used. The style of the movie folds in several techniques and props that pay homage to the Twilight Zone era of sci-fi Ezban loves. Cinematographer Karim Hussain makes use of color grading, special effects, and camera angles in a way that feels classic: warped lenses to show displacement, washed out lighting to show characters are from alt-worlds, and Dutch-angles to show characters feel weird or out of sorts. And shots through a broken mirror occur frequently, too, reminding this viewer of The Watcher in the Woods. The technology tools the characters use, like the special telescope into the parallel worlds, the weird substance in the mirror, and the futuristic gadgets Noel imports, have a steampunk or mad scientist look seen in drive-in or sci-fi B-movies. 

Many time travel stories ask audiences to minor in theories of physics in order to follow the plot (I'm looking at you, Christopher Nolan). Isaac Ezban's Parallel offers an accessible, low-stakes time travel story to viewers who prefer a popcorn picture. The mix of classic and modern story elements gives the story a different, less polished, look that works for a low-budget indie science fiction film. With Parallel, Ezban introduces himself to American moviegoers as a director to watch. His style, which blends genres and dotes on films of the past, has a lot to offer contemporary audiences.

Release info: Available in select theaters & on demand December 11, 2020

Final score: 3 out of 5


movie poster


Agus said…
thank you for the Parallel film review sis, so understand after reading the review.