Most movies struggle to come up with one good idea. The sci-fi thriller Parallel Minds has a handful.
There’s one about a high-tech contact lens that lets you see your own memories. There’s another about a First Nations woman with psychic powers, and a half-remembered past. There’s a third about an artificial intelligence that’s become dangerously, violently sentient.
Add in a standard burned-out-cop-leads-a-murder-investigation story, and you can see director Benjamin Ross Hayden has given himself a lot to handle.
Too much, perhaps. Parallel Minds ends up having to do a lot of parallel cutting, switching back and forth between its various plots, and it can be a bit like trying to herd cats. There are flashbacks, and hallucinations. At least one character pops up for no reason, fulfills no real function, and then disappears.
Even if you’re paying close attention, it’s easy to lose the thread, especially when scientists are blurting things like “If I can create a feedback loop with the right magnetic oscillation, I might be able to overwhelm it!”
But if you’ve got the patience, the movie is worth the work.
A Canadian production, the film boasts a diverse cast full of strong, fresh performers. The desolate Alberta exteriors are filled with a harsh beauty. And the cinematography by Jeff Maher gets every last thrill of Mike Kasper’s production design: The engineering labs, all cold blue and silver; the lonely frontier, all weathered wood and dry dust.
There’s a lot here to hold your gaze – a good thing, as its script can be a more difficult thing to concentrate on.
The mystery begins with the death of a top tech scientist, found dead in her own lab at the Red-Eye Corporation. Was it murder or suicide? Her dedicated protégée, played by Tommie-Amber Pirie, has her suspicions. She soon convinces a hard-bitten cop, played by Greg Bryk, to share them.
That’s when things start getting complicated.
The cop also has a stalker after him, collateral damage from a previous case. The protégée has memories of a traumatic childhood, and of another unsolved murder. There’s also a mysterious, punky, cool-as-hell hacker who seems to have wandered in from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Oh, and there’s a mysterious, all-powerful cyber mogul, too – whose striking resemblance to the CEO of Twitter is probably just coincidental.
It’s all frenzied, but fun – although it frequently doesn’t make much sense, even according to its own rules. (If you’re going to have a telekinetic heroine who can send cinderblocks sailing through the air, shouldn’t she also be able to untie the ropes binding her to a chair?)
No one can accuse Parallel Minds of not having a lot going on. Still, after 86 exhausting minutes, you can’t help wishing the director had maybe dropped one of those subplots. Or just expanded the whole thing into an eight-episode series.