Film review: ‘Disconnect’ serves as a wake up call

Film review: ‘Disconnect’ serves as a wake up call
Jason Bateman in Henry-Alex Rubin´s “Disconnect.” Photo courtesy of LD Entertainment

Deeply personal and real to the core, “Disconnect” drives home the point it wants to make about us and the technology we use today. 

Of course, given the multiple types of online technology that we use, it’s only natural that “Disconnect” explores our relationship to it via loosely interconnected storylines. In one, a diligent, cell phone-addicted lawyer (Jason Bateman) can’t seem to put aside time to socialize with his family.

Another focuses on a couple (Alexander Skarsgård and Paula Patton) gets caught up in a dangerous situation when someone steals their secrets via the Internet. At the same time, an ex-cop (Frank Grillo) faces difficulties in raising a naughty son (Colin Ford) who cyber-bullies an introverted classmate (Jonah Bobo).

And to top it off, an up-and-coming journalist (Andrea Riseborough) spots a target of opportunity in a teenager (Max Thieriot) who performs on an adults-only website.

I’m going to be honest here: it is guaranteed the audience will feel a personal connection with this film due to the fact that it touches upon something we utilize daily. Think of this as a “people’s film,” designed to reach out and shed light on our relationship to contemporary technology. Whether you oppose or support the impact of our technological advances on human lives, or are somewhere in between, you are likely to realize the deep ties you have to the topics addressed in “Disconnect.”

Speaking of which, the reality of humans in our society struggling to connect via modern technology is neither condemned nor commended. As demonstrated in “Disconnect,” it simply “is.” This film does not seek to choose sides here; all it does is present the matter in a straightforward approach that hits very close to home.

The multiple narratives are loosely linked by the online omnipresence, which enables each story arc to develop on its own while keeping in mind the bigger picture of what the film is trying to say. More importantly, no one storyline gets more attention than the other.

For example, I couldn’t turn my eyes away from the tragedy that came about as a consequence of the cyber-bullying. And if that’s not enough, it’s hard to not feel for the married couple that has to suffer through the troubles they face after their online information gets stolen.

Normally, if there were no ending to the story, then we’d be in for a massive disappointment. In this case, however, the lack of an ending is more beneficial than detrimental. The film’s takeaway leaves you with the feeling that what you’ve seen may be fiction, but nonetheless bring the realities into a sharper understanding.

Every member in the ensemble cast of “Disconnect” deserves a round of applause for their dedication. Jason Bateman steps away from his usual comedic characters and showcases a surprising amount of depth in his role as a flawed father who can’t shake his phone addiction. Jonah Bobo turns in a haunting portrayal of a lonely student who ends up being harassed by cyber-bullies.

Colin Ford is both despicable and repentant as he is forced to grapple with the consequences of his cruel actions. Alexander Skarsgård and Paula Patton make a believable husband-and-wife duo that has fallen on hard times. Andrea Riseborough displays ample ambition and naivety as any neophyte reporter would. We also get to see good performances from Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Michael Nyqvist, Max Thieriot, and Haley Ramm.

Once you see what this film strives to show you about what’s been going in your life regarding the use of technology, you’ll be affected in ways for better or for worse. Such a cinematic punch to the face won’t be easy to absorb, but it’s one that is relevant for the times we live in.

MPAA rating: R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, language, violence and drug use – some involving teens.

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Playing: General release

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