TV Review: Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives



This documentary from PBS' "Nova" series is the kind of food that feeds the soul, the intellect and the heart.

Drawing on various disciplines, from music to science to memoir and personal journey, "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives" charts the tale of one man in search of the father he never really knew. It's the kind of journey we all take in one way or another, no matter the circumstance, no matter the unique form a journey can take. In that regard, it's a universal story. It's difficult to come away from this hourlong documentary without feeling moved, even changed.

Filmmaker Louis Lockwood points her camera on Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E, the lead singer of the cult band the Eels. Everett embarks on the journey of a lifetime as he seeks out the elements of his father's life. His father was iconoclastic quantum physicist Hugh Everett III, who published his theory of parallel universes more than 50 years ago and whom Scientific American described as "one of the most important scientists of the 20th century." To some, his genius even rivaled that of Albert Einstein, who taught at Princeton when the elder Everett was a graduate student there.

The father's theory in part says that any time we make a decision to take action on something, we create a separate, unique universe from ourselves. The son seeks out the father of this theory, a man who died young without letting his son know who he truly was. The results are startling, highly emotional and seriously thought-provoking.

Lockwood's camera stays close to her subject as he travels the country to find the essence of his father. The photography is beautiful, and the story structure is loose and baggy, just the way the viewer (not to mention Everett himself) needs it to be. Who knows what he'll find as he starts out.

Woven into the story's frame is footage of Everett performing his music, each performance, each song uncannily related to the documentary's overall theme: that we live in various universes at once, that we find webs of relations between ourselves, our parents and the larger world around us. The journey here is spiritual, emotionally satisfying and probably much larger than anyone can really imagine.

Production: A WGBH Production
Writer, producer, director: Louise Lockwood
Senior executive producer: Paula S. Apsell