Firstly I have to admit that when Disconnect popped up NowTV, I was thrilled, I’d seen the trailers in the cinema, plus being a True Blood/Skarsgard fan I was on it quicker than a bullet from a gun. Unfortunately what I had confused Disconnect with The East. Please don’t ask me how. I’m on my second cider of the evening, I don’t normally drink and it proves that considering I’ve created a blog all about film, I should probably be more observant in the future when reading the synopsis of any film.
So when I actually figured out that I was watching a film about the negativity of the digitalized, connected and at times anonymous lives we now lead (and not about anarchy against corporations) I was truly watching this film not knowing what to expect. Normally I do a bit of soft research on most films I watch, reviews etc. but I didn’t have the chance this time. So Disconnect is the first feature film from Henry Alex Rubin, director of the 2005 documentary Murderball, about paraplegic rugby, shows three very different but intertwined stories about the negativity of the digital world. We see Kyle, a young male sex worker on the internet and his communication with Nina, an up and coming reporter for a news channel. Two school boys, Jason and Frye who set up a fake Facebook profile impersonating a girl, Jessica to talk to Ben, eventually convincing him to send them sexually explicit images. And finally Derek and his wife Cindy, both grieving in very different ways over the death of their young son Ethan, Derek gambling away on online poker and Cindy chatting intimately to ‘fear&loathing’ on a chat room for bereavement.
Each story within Disconnect somehow connects with one another, whether it’s Derek and Cindy consulting Jason’s father, a computer expert, or Nina being consulted over her story on the sex workers by Ben’s father. But on a deeper level, everyone shown is affected by ‘the digital world’ negatively. You’d have to have been living in a cave to not know about recent news real news stories about teenagers killing themselves after online bullying, online exploitation of vulnerable children and online financial scams; Disconnect is culturally relevant. The amount of time we spend in front of the small screen is surpassing the amount of time we spend in front of the television and for some even the time we spend with other people.
Disconnect is a bit of a slow burner, it jumps from one story to another as each one progresses. As each story builds we see the disintegration of the characters involved. It revolves around their obsession with rectifying the real world impact of their online activity. Disconnect’s main theme is how something intangible has such a huge impact on the real world and how dominated we are by it. Disconnect shows the internet isn’t necessarily confined to the rich, and in a strange way crosses every single line in society. The irony of it all, the digital world is supposed to link everyone together easily, just going by the common terms associated with it, social networking, chatrooms, forums, instant messaging, in fact we are torn apart by it, excluded, harassed, exploited, victimized and lonely.
Unfortunately for Disconnect, despite a spectacularly talented cast, it wasn’t marketed well and wasn’t shown in many theatres. Had this not been the case, I think Disconnect would be talked about in terms of Oscar nominations. It’s an exceptional film. So culturally relevant, so touching and stark. It’s not a film of extremes, despite what were being shown, it’s reflecting real life. It resonates uncomfortably and each segment of the film is recognisable to everyone in one way or another. What we are really being shown is some of the most common negativities of the internet.
Disconnect is filmed almost like a documentary, without big special effects or spectacular visuals. It’s simple and straightforward, which I think was necessary with a film which deals with such big issues. I have to say, Disconnect could have comfortably been longer. No resolutions are offered, but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be told how it ends. We are however offered the simplicity of mended relationships in two of the stories. The message of Disconnect is powerful and the stories are so recognisable and so affecting. I’m not sure the film would appeal to an older generation, and maybe there could have been some involvement of older people, but then again, Disconnect isn’t a public information film. It’s not looking to examine the effects of a digitalized world on everyone, just a few people.
I definitely urge you to seek out Disconnect, it’s a beautifully made film which is sensitive, non sensationalist look at modern society. I’m kind of disappointed that this is the first time I’ve heard of this film. I definitely think it’s worth so much more than what has happened to it in terms of distribution and exhibition. The cast is impressive, and Jason Bateman on an exceptional note, considering we’re used to seeing him in comedies, takes a remarkable turn as Ben’s father. I hope that over time, Disconnect will become well-known, I definitely think it’s in the same league as Crash, if not better.
- DISCONNECT Blu-ray Review (collider.com)
- Review: Disconnect (2012) – Henry Alex Rubin (Bluray) (fastfilmjudge.wordpress.com)
- Devoured by Technology (hightalk.net)
- Disconnect (comm350.wordpress.com)
- Will ‘Disconnect’s Internet Paranoia Make You Want to Unplug Forever? (Review) (popmatters.com)