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USA 2012
Directed by
Henry-Alex Rubin
115 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Whilst Henry-Alex Rubin's direction is first class the success of his film depends on Andrew Stern’s densely interwoven script.  Much in the style of films such as Crash and Babel, Disconnect is a multi-strand portrait of modern life in the age of the internet, specifically focussing on the effect of social media and especially the gap that it opens up between the youth of today and the pre-internet generation of their parents. 

The film follows three different stories: the first being the relationship between an ambitious TV reporter, Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough) who is doing a story on a cyber-sex rent boy, Kyle (Max Thierot); the second is about a high school loner, Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo), who becomes the victim of a prank pulled by two fellow schoolmates who trick him into sending a sexually-explicit photo of himself which goes viral, causing him to attempt suicide. The third story follows the trials of a couple (Alexander Skarsgaard and Paula Patton) whose relationship has been fractured by the recent death of their baby son. She chats with a member of a virtual support group, he gambles online. When their bank account is emptied and their credit cards maxed out he hires a detective (Frank Grillo) to find how it happened.

Within each one of these stories there are many characters and inter-relationships and Stern handles the complexity with restraint, even-handedness and deft powers of observation. Although one might say that the ending is at first too over-wrought then too neatly reassuring, for the most part the film feels real albeit a highly compressed and conveniently symmetrical version of reality. The story involving the strung-out couple is in this respect the least tenable. Catching cyber-criminals seems too easily achieved and Paula Patton is distractingly photogenic despite the fact that her performance is touching. Indeed all the cast are excellent with even Jason Bateman, who is best known for lame middle-of-the-road comedies, doing a fine job of playing a father who has never bothered to know his son.

As far as I know Disconnect did not get a theatrical release in Australia but it is well worth seeking out. It has strong thematic content and emotional heft and is as gripping as any thriller, a package that doesn’t come along too often.




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