Reconstruction of William Zero, The (2015)


The Reconstruction of William ZeroStarring Conal Byrne, Amy Seimetz, AJ Bowen, Melissa McBride

Directed by Dan Bush

Poet William Blake once said, “The true method of knowledge is experiment” and, if true, the main character of Dan Bush’s The Reconstruction of William Zero doesn’t ever truly learn from his own failed experiments that attempt to create the ultimate nuclear family. This is hard sci-fi at its most somber that detours into the horrific once the consequences of trying to turn tragedy into harmony come barrelling down on top of a desperate geneticist. William Zero has big ideas, seamless effects and a bold central performance by Conal Byrne as William Blakely but it doesn’t quite put all the pieces back together by the end of its cautionary plot.

Grief-stricken and endlessly lost after accidentally backing over his own son while rushing to his work lab, William turns to his twin brother, Edward, to help put the pieces back together after his wife (Amy Seimetz) leaves him, unable to forgive him for what he’s done. Almost child-like, William watches home movies on a loop to remember his family and, ultimately, what’s happened to him since the death of his son. “It’s like my life never happened,” he observes and, slowly, it becomes clear that Edward might have ulterior motives as he essentially retools William for his own purposes. Processing the anguish of the past, Edward must also work to uncover the real reason he’s being rehabilitated as he also tries to rekindle the love he and his wife once had.

The double roles that actor and co-writer Conal Byrne performs are very much their own characters with their own set of quirks and, interestingly, the different traits of both twins offer clues as to what is really going on between the two men and what their relationship really is. Byrne is almost in every scene and takes on the challenge of multiple roles head on and the interaction between them is engaging on a purely technical level. It’s Byrne, however, that injects the emotion, confusion and desperation of each iteration of himself, a feat that’s essential to justifying their dark motives as the truth begins to surface. Genre faves AJ Bowen (You’re Next) and Melissa McBride (The Walking Dead) also appear in small but fun roles and even though it would have been nice to see more of them, they don’t muddy the waters with identical twins of their own.

As William begins to degrade as his supposed therapy washes away into a kind of waking nightmare, his actions become cold and sudden murder and violence is a result giving the build up and final conclusion some much needed energy once he starts to rampage. Since we’re shown early on that the lab William Zero works at is on the forefront of cloning, there’s an excess of exposition even though the story really isn’t that complicated, so it’s welcomed when bursts of madness and surreal images start to appear.

There are some memorable moments, but at times the stop-and-start script derails the momentum and takes the focus away from Byrne’s standout performance. Themes dealing with experimental science as a way to deal with grief and loss amount to a kind of new age therapy on the horizon, but the motivations are a classic example of one’s reach exceeding their grasp. By constructing a new self in order to reconstruct a ruined life after experiencing great tragedy, William Zero raises questions about how we tend to want the simplest, cleanest solution to the most complicated problems. Even using miraculous science to try and cure grief will fail; you just have to accept loss and try to move on. How William Zero ends up moving on may surprise you.

  • Film
User Rating 3.2 (10 votes)


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