'The Reconstruction of William Zero': Fantasia Review

The Reconstruction of William Zero - H 2014
Courtesy of Fantasia Festival

The Reconstruction of William Zero - H 2014

Thoughtful, intimate film works both as sci-fi and family drama

Imagine 'Multiplicity' as a serious, grief-fueled psychodrama

Another quiet indie using sci-fi tropes for thoughtful exploration of wholly real emotions, Dan Bush's The Reconstruction of William Zero introduces a geneticist so overwhelmed by grief, he creates a clone of himself to help shoulder the burden of living. Playing both the doctor and his tube-grown proxy, co-writer Conal Byrne sensitively literalizes the notion that each of us contains better and worse — or simply, stronger and weaker — versions of ourselves, carrying a film that lives or dies on his performance(s). Accessible to genre die-hards and general moviegoers alike, the picture may have trouble getting much traction beyond festivals but will win Bush admirers where it does.

Byrne's William Blakely at first seems to be an amnesia victim being nursed back to health by his twin brother, his memories slowly returning after a car accident. In fact, he was just born a few months before: The real Blakely, "William Zero," has stolen materials from the lab where he uses dogs to test cloning and, having speed-grown this lump of flesh in his image, is programming it to believe it is him. Part of that programming requires cautiously explaining to the new William that his young son was killed in a car accident, and that he and wife Jules (Amy Seimetz, the tangible link confirming spiritual kinship between this film and the work of Shane Carruth) have become estranged as a result.

It would be a shame to reveal too much of what happens when we learn more, but suffice to say that those cloned dogs in the lab frequently die from mutation, a fact that bodes ill for William's solo experimentation. As the action plays out with intentional obliqueness, a slow-burn thriller plot (in which Blakely's bosses grow suspicious about missing materials) parallels scenes in which William stalks Jules, attempting to find a way back into her life. Are we bouncing back and forth in time while observing William Zero, or are multiple Williams pursuing this reconciliation? Jon Swindall's unstable camera emphasizes our uncertain footing.

While the film plays strongly as both mystery and haunted love story, Bush also gets plenty of mileage simply from the drama of one man's attitude toward himself, if such a thing even exists. A touching moment near the end finds one William hugging another, grateful for the latter's self-sacrifice; but what does self-sacrifice mean in such a scene? Does it matter which William is the original? Would it matter to those who loved him?

Production company: POP Films

Cast: Conal Byrne, Amy Seimetz, A.J. Bowen, Melissa McBride

Director: Dan Bush

Screenwriters: Dan Bush, Conal Byrne

Producers: Linda Burns, Dan Bush, Conal Byrne, Clay Floren, Alexander Motlagh, Aimee Shieh

Executive producer: Michael McReynolds

Director of photography: Jon Swindall

Production designers: Jessee J. Clarkson, Sally Rowe

Costume designer: Caroline Dieter

Editor: Dan Bush

Music: Ben Lovett

Sales: Preferred Content


No rating, 97 minutes