Directed by Dan Bush
Allowing oneself time to grieve over the loss of a loved one can be a timely process indeed, especially when the circumstances of the person’s death are caused accidentally by a family member, and in director Dan Bush’s The Reconstruction of William Zero, we lay witness to just how far one parent will go in order to cope with a devastating tragedy.
Recently screened at the Fantasia Film Fest, the movie peers into the ultra-busy lives of William and Jules Blake (Conal Byrne and Amy Seimetz in strong roles). William is a doctor with some serious credentials at a genetic laboratory, mastering the art of cell regeneration and molecular imaging (cloning for the ones that didn’t study for the test), and Jules is the happy housewife, tending to the home and their young son, Kevin.
One typical morning at the Blake home finds William in his usual harried rush to work, while Jules is making breakfast (that goes uneaten, I might add) and fending off numerous requests from little Kevin, who just wants to head outside and ride his bicycle. After giving in, Kevin is on his way to happily pedal along the roadside, and here comes good ol’ Dad backing out of the driveway, completely oblivious to what’s behind him as he yaps incessantly on his cell phone to a co-worker and… well, I’m sure you can fill in the remainder of the disastrous results.
Following the heartbreaking death of their only child, we flash forward an undetermined amount of time to see William strapped to a hospital gurney in someone’s home – would you believe me if I told you that William was in William’s home, looking after William? The aforementioned question was not asked to confuse you, the viewer, simply because upon first viewing I had the same bit of confusion through my normally vacant skull. After a short bit of reflection it dawned upon me that William had created a clone of himself and was re-integrating him to his new life, complete with memory reconstruction and all the bells and whistles that come along with becoming a fully-functional (and non-grieving) adult.
You may ask yourself, “Why would someone want to make a clone of themselves after such a terrible set of circumstances?,” and the answer is simple: to make the new person entirely better as a whole than the original (and THIS is where the story becomes a tad bit convoluted.) While we see one side of William as the sorrowful, grief-stricken parent, we view the new William as a work in progress, learning bits about his history as his mind acts like a super-sponge soaking up all the knowledge it can contain. After some time the cloned version begins to see what the old version is (and was) all about and responds in violent fashion. Honestly, over a brief spell you can lose sight of the big picture here and question yourself as to which William is which and slide down the slippery slope of “plot-loss” as the remainder of the film delves into a good-guy/bad-guy race against time as to who will come forward and reclaim the lost relationship with Jules (who apparently stepped away from the marriage after Kevin’s death).
The saving grace here are the performances: Conal Byrne is OUTSTANDING in his dual role – he simply chews scene after scene with reckless abandon – while we are privy to a decent cameo. Melissa McBride (Carol from “The Walking Dead”) took a short spell from slaying zombies to portray Dr. Ashley Bronson; it’s just fun to watch this woman act in any role, albeit a quick one here.
All in all, the movie takes a psychological premise and gives it a solemn touch that will pull on the strings of any hard-hearted individual when facing the whole “loss of a child” premise – it’s sad and complex all rolled into a nice sci-fi coating. But beware: It can be hard to swallow and possibly even harder to digest.
2 out of 5