A particle physicist grieving over the loss of her husband in a car crash uses a revolutionary machine to bring him back, with dire consequences for her family.
John V. Soto
John V. Soto
The Gateway is a new sci-fi drama from Australian writer/director John V. Soto. The film brings to mind old sayings like, “Be careful what you wish for” and “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is”.
Jane Chandler (Deep Blue Sea’s Jacqueline McKenzie) and her partner Regg (Ben Mortley) are particle physicists. They are a small outfit, privately funded – in a quest to unlock the secrets of teleportation (the central conceit brings to mind Cronenberg’s The Fly). They have a breakthrough involving potential communication from another dimension (their machines don’t teleport to the other chamber – they teleport to a parallel universe). When Jane’s husband Matt (Myles Pollard) tragically dies, her grief pushes her to make some irresponsible choices involving her work – resulting in renewed quality time with another version of her husband. But as you can expect, and as I mentioned above – “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is”. Naturally, if you play God, things are not going to be easy.
The strongest thing in the film is the lead performance from Jacqueline McKenzie as Jane Chandler. The character’s an accomplished particle physicist and I never doubted all of the technical jargon McKenzie had to tackle. And with no question on that front, you’ll be free to marvel at her quieter and more emotional moments. One which stands out is her first interaction with her on-screen husband on a nearby boardwalk/dock – clearly a special place throughout their relationship. Director Soto explained that much of this scene was ad-libbed by the actors – and that just makes me appreciate her acting work all the more.
It’s perhaps a sad state of jaded affairs – for me as a critic – but when I see something brilliant in a film (a performance, great foreshadowing or the like) I find myself thinking the same thing as what I mentioned above: “Is it too good to be true?” It’s not that I’m wishing for a fail or a misstep – but I consciously enjoy something and have this undercurrent of worry that the brilliance won’t last.
I bring this up because in McKenzie’s performance – I found nothing wrong. And that’s not something to take lightly. While so much works in the film – there’s no question that McKenzie’s work as Jane – is the absolute highlight in The Gateway.
As husband Matt, Myles Pollard gets to basically play two different roles. In the beginning, he’s a loving, caring father and husband, and one helluva a cook. But when Jane brings him back from his world, it quickly becomes clear that this is not a similar or as hoped – better – version of Matt. And Pollard hits the nuances and notes of both Matt versions. It’s a nice dichotomy – and Pollard gets the benefit of a strong script and strong direction to properly define the two different “Matts”.
What was most surprising about The Gateway, is its ability to drum up plenty of emotion. Unless you’re Nolan’s Interstellar, it’s generally pretty tough to make something sentimental if found in a sci-fi film.
I’m a notorious softee, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but when Matt returns to Jane’s dimension – he is reunited with his still-grieving children. And it’ll put a lump in your throat. And I think such reactions are always a good indicator that the actors, the writers and the director have done a bang-up job. If we didn’t give a hill of beans about these people up on the screen – the film is mostly a failure – even if it looks good. So I can happily say that I shed a tear or two during this film – and to me that deserves a shout of “Kudos!”
It’s not all hunky-dory though.
One of my big complaints about the film is the performance from the two children – Shannon Berry as daughter Samantha and Ryan Panizza as son Jake. They’re not terrible by any stretch, but when up against the adults playing their parents – its hard not to notice what I’ll call “green” shortcomings. But I think the daughter had a bit of an edge over her on-screen brother.
The visual effects were all nicely done. But what stood out most was the transition in looks between each world. We get some clues as to the nature of Matt’s parallel world – through lovely color and brightness changes – through small things like clothing and the very Terminator-esque flying vehicles on the other side. I was impressed with Soto’s choice to keep the obviousness to a minimum. It’s subtle, but extremely effective.
The pacing of the film is solid. You’ll quickly get on board with this family, and of course latch onto Jane specifically. It moves fast and even in the film’s final moments, as you are expecting a happy wrap-up and potential slow-down, you’ll find that things are not as they seem. But within the universe (parallel or other) created, it all makes sense. And the crisp editing is a piece of the film’s puzzle you’ll notice – in a good way, of course.
Director Soto explained that as the film came to be, it was originally intended as a time travel exercise. But feeling that those kind of films have recently saturated the market – they decided to spice things up a bit by making it a tale about parallel universes – and the trouble those can cause the characters. I think it was a wise choice, because it feels fresh.
At this year’s 4th annual Filmquest out of Provo, Utah – The Gateway held its World Premiere. Not only was it an official selection, it was also nominated for several awards; including Best Screenplay, Best Actor for Myles Pollard, Best Actress for Jacqueline McKenzie and Best Visual Effects for a feature film.
The Gateway is a nicely-constructed, solidly produced sci-fi flick, with a heart (entrenched in that sci-fi goodness – who’d a thunk it?) and a wonderful lead performance from Jacqueline McKenzie.
The film is still hitting the festival circuit (in our world as well as those parallel to ours), but no wider release information is yet available. But with so much to offer softees like myself and sci-fi nerds the world over – it’s definitely worth a look.