October 28, 2014

The Heart Machine

Zachary Wigon, 2014
Cody (John Gallagher Jr.) finds himself in an online romance with Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil), consisting of nightly Skype calls and communicating via other social networking sites. But Cody soon becomes skeptical of Virginia's actual location, doubting that she's in Berlin like she says she is. He begins to discover that she may in fact be a lot closer to him than she tells him.

Wigon's unique romantic mystery piece is his first full-feature film, employing some talent behind the camera and also some talent in front of the camera with leading roles by Gallagher Jr. (Short Term 12) and Sheil (You're Next, House of Cards, Listen up Philip). It zeroes in on a pair of twenty-somethings that are in a digital relationship in the busy bee-hive that is New York City. Wigon's New York is friendly and passive by day, and promiscuous and forward at night. In a sense it's a cautionary tale about not knowing who the person is on the other side of the screen, projecting your ideal self through the filter of the internet. Gallagher is not the purely innocent sap that he played in the great 2012 film Short Term 12. Instead here, he is much more relentless and apprehensive. Some of his moments on screen are very uncomfortable in his few moments of great persistence. He certainly isn't a clear protagonist, and there also isn't really a clear antagonistic force at work either. It's certainly not certain that it would be Virginia. She's duplicitous, but not completely malicious. She's filling a void, protecting herself, but you also get a sense that she's protecting Cody. She values the relationship, and when there are hints of it's demise she grows defensive. You wonder why she uses her real name in her online persona, you would think that she would be able to hide more effectively if she hadn't. After all, it's seems quite easy to do some amateur detective work when you have access to the person's Facebook profile. It's probably the point for Virginia, who wants to hide in some shadow secrecy but perhaps not completely shrouded. Cody is a morally compromised character, like a stalker detective who digs his heels in even deeper when it would be way more appropriate to pull out and move on. Wigon plays with tension quite well, it builds to the point of being unbearable. The Cody and Virginia characters are complex and flawed, very much like any real life dynamic. There is irony in the sense that the online relationship is giving Virginia stability while making Cody grow more instable. Wigon's micro story feels much bigger with it's impressive balance of suspicion and deception. 

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