By: Heather Seebach
The last few years have seen a rise in arthouse sci-fi dramas with films like Another Earth, Upstream Color, and The Sound of My Voice. The latest takes a look at the moral implications of cloning in The Reconstruction of William Zero. This indie from writer/director Dan Bush (The Signal) boasts mumlegore veterans like AJ Bowen and Amy Seimetz. It touches on some interesting ethical topics but ultimately falls short of a being profound science fiction.
Conal Byrne stars as William Blakely, a geneticist struggling with the death of his young son and the subsequent estrangement of his wife. He awakes from a coma under the care of his twin brother but soon realizes that nothing is what it seems. While searching to piece together his life and his identity, shady corporate types and nosy neighbors make things complicated (and occasionally bloody).
The film wastes no time leaping into the meat of the story but its hastiness is unfortunately a hindrance to it. Logic is often side-stepped and characters not fully fleshed-out. Roles like that of AJ Bowen are essentially useless (tragically, as Bowen deserves better). Seimetz' role too as William's wife is woefully underused. The primary antagonists known only as "the men upstairs" (including The Walking Dead's Melissa McBride) are vague and unnecessary.
The story often feels rushed and its holes patched up with excessive exposition. It is a shame because William Zero looks sharp and explores some fascinating scientific, philosophical, and ethical issues. Primary themes include the individual rights of clones and the parallels of parenthood and cloning. And in the leading role, Byrne (who also co-wrote) chews a bit of scenery but gives a very solid standout performance as multiple different personalities.
Dan Bush continues to be one-to-watch on the genre scene. This one may lack the compelling script and characters of The Signal (in which Bush directed Transmission III) but it looks fantastic. In summary, it's an attractive thriller hinged on a strong lead and neat ideas but ultimately it succumbs to half measures.
The Reconstruction of William Zero hits select theaters and VOD on April 10, 2015.