In the new film, “Disconnect,” be prepared to re-examine your online activities. Director Henry Alex Rubin doesn’t get preachy about our obsession with the Internet. Instead, he treats it as a fact of life. But he also delves into the dangerous repercussions of seemingly innocuous behavior when being online gets horribly out of control.
Three interlocking stories are told simultaneously, all of which are rapidly approaching devastating outcomes. Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman) and his wife, Lydia (Hope Davis), have a loner son, Ben (Jonah Bobo), who’s targeted by two cyber bullies. Derek Hull (Alexander Skarsgard) and wife, Cindy (Paula Patton), have recently lost their baby and she seeks solace on a bereavement website, while he hunts down the identity theft who’s put them in financial straits. And TV reporter Nina Durham (Andrea Riseborough) is trying to make a name for herself by exposing an underage sex ring through interviews with an Internet teen porn star (Max Thieriot).
Frank Grillo plays an ex-cop, cyber detective who helps the Hulls with their identity theft and also just happens to be the father of one of the cyber bullies. There’s a lot of intertwining going on in “Disconnect” but it works beautifully. And fear not, one doesn’t have to be technically savvy to get what’s going on in this gripping, emotionally charged film.
Moreover, “Disconnect” is all about reconnecting. Sons and fathers, husbands and wives, exploiters and victims of exploitation all come full circle to confront their demons and rectify their mistakes. Rubin — directing his first feature film (widely known for his outstanding documentary “Murderball”) — scores high marks for his insightful forage into human suffering. He also manages to extract first-rate performances from all of the actors.
Jason Bateman, the master of deadpan humor (“Horrible Bosses”) is magnificently heartbreaking as a grieving father whose only way to understand his son is via his computer. And Andrea Riseborough’s character’s astounding transformation is both visually and emotionally astounding. There’s absolutely no bad casting in this must-see film.
There’s a shocking scene in which Ben’s sister spits into her best friend’s face. And it hit me — this was a moment of real, genuine contact. Up to that point everyone communicated technologically. If anything, “Disconnect” demonstrates that the lack of human connections can have tragic consequences. Beware.
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