Thursday, June 30, 2011

Suspension (2008)

     Though billed as a Sci-Fi piece about a man who discovers he can stop time, Suspension (2008) is more of a deeply effective and insightful presentation of obsession.  It acknowledges the "I don't know why" early feelings and motivations to be a positive part of the object's life (and I cannot think of a better term for how obsession absolutely dehumanizes the people upon whom it is focused).  It highlights the easy path into questionable and illegal behavior under the guise of having the right to take such actions because the need to do them is so strong.  It doesn't shrink away from how the intensity of an obsession can lead the afflicted to believe that it can only be love, that it must be a miraculous, strong, and undeniable love that must be made real.
     Suspension effectively starts with work-a-day family man Daniel Bennet (Scott Cordes) awakening from an auto accident that has killed his wife and teenage son.  His entire world shattered, Daniel is left emotionally adrift and attempts to navigate the early transition from pre-accident to post-accident as well as he can.  He understandably makes himself distant from friends and absent from work, choosing instead to spend time in his house mourning what he has lost.  In his exploration of his son's belongings he comes across a video camera (VHS) that has the ability to stop time.  He doesn't know what to do with it at first.
     Daniel has chance to encounter Sarah Caine (Annie Tedesco), the widow of the man who caused the accident that ended Daniel's family.  Daniel decides to not pursue a lawsuit against Sarah, in his mind imaging that, because of the accident, the two of them share some transcendental bond.  Daniel becomes obsessed with Sarah.  He moves out of his house -- an especially vivid depiction of how his obsession is driving him from his old, stable, normal behaviors.  He keeps an eye on Sarah without her knowledge (easy to do when he can control time).  His behavior grows darker throughout the film, but it always feels like the real progression an obsessive experiences, especially when there is no outside force keeping the obsession in check.
     Directors Alec Joler and Ethan Shaftel do an amazing job with the limited budget.  The locations (the movie was filmed in Kansas) have a very anywhere in America feel to them.  Both leads, Cordes and Tedesco, fully inhabit their roles.  Cordes especially gives Daniel an air of cool, sometimes calculating, menace.  Tedesco plays Annie with understandable vulnerability and a strong survival instinct.  A few of the supporting cast distract from the tone with substandard performances, but not enough to draw the audience from the suspension of disbelief the film has banked by those points.
    I would caution any viewer going in expecting more from the Sci-Fi angle.  The camera is a plot device that allows for Daniel to indulge in his obsessive thoughts and behaviors.  It drives the movie forward because it is what helps Daniel have the access to Sarah's life to realize his desires.  As such, a viewer not especially incline to Sci-Fi may just as easily dismiss the implications of the camera as a Sci-Fi fan could ponder them.  Suspension is, quite frankly, the best film representation of obsession I have ever seen on film.  While it may not be a fun movie to watch, it is a rewarding experience.
[Suspension is available from Netflix by DVD and streaming.]

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