Review: +1 (Plus One)

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Director: Dennis Iliadis
Starring: Rhys Wakefield, Logan Miller, Ashley Hinshaw, Colleen Dengel, Natalie Hall
Rating: 4 out of 5 doubles. This IFC Midnight release far exceeded any expectations I had for it. It blended science fiction with a college party backdrop in a way that was surprisingly seamless most of the time and unbelievably smart overall. The film also succeeds thanks to its even pacing and its likable main characters. This film is entertaining, suspenseful, and really well-made. Its script never falls into the raunchy teen sex comedy pitfalls that its setting threatens. It is grounded and begs us therefore to focus less on the generic debauchery and more on the mystery at hand. I will say though that this mystery is one whose resolution is on one hand frustratingly easy and ambiguous but somehow also more eerie as a result of that.

On the night of a big party, some kind of meteor shower hits causing power glitches which in turn cause there to be doubles of everyone– and every event– at the party. Every time the power goes off and comes back on again, another version of every person appears repeating, or at least recreating, the events each person lived through at the party until the timelines start to catch up to one another. The slow and steady revelation that that’s what is even occurring is so effective, first of all; we feel increasingly uneasy and with more high-stakes questions as the film progresses– what happens when these doubles start to change and deviate, affected by even the slightest of altered factors, or when the timelines match up perfectly even?

These are the kinds of time travel related issues that I often find to be overly confusing in films, often when explanations are given, actually. The fact that we are left to speculate even by the end is at once, again, underwhelming in the sense that I’d love to be privy to how a meteor could cause all this, but also really satisfied because that kind of knowledge could also really bog down what I felt to be a refreshingly youthful, simple and blissfully ignorant science-fiction flick: if these college kids don’t know what’s happening to them, what right would we as viewers have to know any more than they do? All I do know is, every time a character came in contact with their double, I was able to be nervous and intrigued as opposed to confused and responsible for solving the film’s supernatural plot holes. The film isn’t trying too hard and that’s kind of what I loved about it; it simply doesn’t bother with scientific exposition when it’s well aware that any such answers would only serve to make the film even more illogical than it might already be. But what it lacks in proof, it makes up for in spirit.

Plus, I really loved the characters we are given here: David, played by Wakefield, is trying to beg for his girlfriend’s forgiveness in the aftermath of their recent fight and assumed breakup, while Teddy (Miller) is the most stereotypically sex-crazed character but even he emerges as a semi-intelligent and capable human being with a lot of other facets to him, and Alison (Dengel) is the quiet unpopular type who too does not ever get flattened to the two-dimensional extent that characters of these (or any) kinds would ordinarily be. And by the end of the film, I felt myself rooting for all of the guests, a rare feat considering the sorts of high jinks we’re forced to witness when alcohol and other indulgences are involved. Again, though, we’re being asked to witness those things through a very specific lens, especially thanks to the first slight power surge occurring before the party even begins.

Overall, my main frustration as mentioned was my own personal indecision about whether I truly wanted to know why any of these things were happening in the first place or not, and with that in mind, I think the ending was powerful in some way (I tried not to give any specific spoilers) but also a little silly in other ways. Things wrap up seemingly too easy but that is redeemed by the lingering sense of doubt and trauma among the party goers and within us as viewers as well. I think other than that, the film is really well-scripted, well-acted, and extremely well-paced above all else. It is energetic and fun but also really scary and smart too. I was pleasantly shocked at how much I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, but I’d recommend not trying too hard to piece things together when it isn’t necessary for the enjoyment of it at all.

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