The Reconstruction of William Zero | Review
Less Than Zero: Bush’s Blend is a Well-intended but Exhaustive Piece
Drama stimulated by an identity crisis set against a science fiction backdrop poses for great entertainment. Co-writer/director Dan Bush is earnest in choosing the right elements and parameters that promise reward when the cymbals crash. However, this particular mixture of character drama and science fiction creates a friction that shifts sporadically and quickly fizzles out. The Reconstruction of William Zero stretches itself in the attempt to hit all of the marks of its predecessors while attempting to cover new ground, ultimately making it difficult to look past its thin veneer.
William Blakely (co-writer Conal Bryne) wakes up from under a machine with no memory as to who he is or why he is there. His caretaker, his identical twin (also Conal Bryne), shares with him footage of old home movies, teaches him how to walk again and even the proper etiquette in answering a knock knock joke. William learns of his current life: his job as a leading geneticist of Next Corporation and how his marriage to Jules (Amy Seimetz) dissolved after their son died from an accident directly caused by Blakely. Along the journey of rediscovery, he learns of a self-helmed project and realizes that there’s something lurking beneath the surface, something his brother has yet to divulge.
The Reconstruction of William Zero is weighed down by its dependency on melodrama and loaded exposition. As a result, the audience is robbed of the opportunity to venture alongside Blakely and instead is relegated to the sidelines. Pieces of essential information are patchworked together but not in a way that feels succinct to the narrative that meanders at times, feeling more like crammed in between plot points. Byrne has the heavy responsibility of preserving the tension and necessary balance between his two roles which intersect with unpredictability. Though Bryne clearly capable, there is a flatness, specifically to his portrayal as the caretaker with lines like “that ice cream sandwich isn’t going to eat itself” grating, hollow, and inappropriately comical. Never fully recovering, the grand twist and finale does little to save.
With a background primarily comprised of shorts, Bush is probably most noted for The Signal, which he co-directed with two others. Notably, it was shot on a pithy budget and was picked up after premiering at Sundance. Even with his background in DIY-independent-low-budget-filmmaking, the choice of the sci-fi genre is a rather daring not without its substantial risks. As a low-budget-indie foray into science fiction (traditionally a more financially trying genre), it reminds of James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence and will certainly have its share of comparisons to Shane Caruth’s Upstream Color. The latter of which also starred the under-utilized Seimetz, who ironically, could be considered less passive in Caruth’s film. Despite its ambition, Bush’s industrious piece doesn’t push far enough to make up for its lack, placidly crossing over the familiar, resulting in a what could have been.