Review: The Alternate

Written and directed by Alrik Bursell, upon unlocking a portal to an alternate dimension where all his dreams have come true, struggling filmmaker Jake is forced to confront his idealized self. Starring: Natalia Dominguez and Ed Gonzalez Moreno.

The opening of The Alternate pays sincere homage to the world of sci-fi, beginning with a dose of nostalgia through its score and use of colour. While alternate dimensions and portals are a staple of the genre, the way in which Jake (Moreno) discovers it is creatively new, doing a deep dive into an unexplained speck in his footage. It starts things off on great footing and the story continues much the same way throughout. There’s a solid amount of tension and suspense, the only outlier is that the tone feels as though it doesn’t adapt alongside the progression of the story. At a certain point, it almost steps completely into the horror family but the framing of the story feels as though it was reluctant to accept that shift and holds back on the genuinely sinister edge. There was rife potential to really double down on the darkness and fully lean into the evolution of the original Jake as he begins to make some questionable decisions, and create a more fully realised psychotic edge. It’s a shame, as it could have developed its already enticing atmosphere to another level.

It also would have done a larger justice to Alrik Bursell’s great direction and Jason Joseffer’s fantastic cinematography. The quality of the visual throughout is extremely high, there’s a brilliant texture to it. It’s of a style that feels extremely established and as though this indie team knew exactly where to put their budget to boost the film’s aesthetic. The same goes for its use of effects, they’re unquestionably a world above what you might typically expect from an independent feature, they’re seamless and very entertaining to watch at work. There are only a couple of small exceptions, a shot or two that go on a little longer than necessary, to an otherwise particularly well constructed visual, that’s paced out equally well.

Credit certainly has to go to Ed Gonzalez Moreno for making it easily distinguishable between the alternate versions of Jake, even without the use of one unsightly beard. It’s a solid performance throughout with a good touch of intensity and fury when needed but never over the top. Natalia Dominguez’s Kris doesn’t really get to be too involved in either dimension but again, she flawlessly distinguishes between the two versions and adds a dash more emotion to the story. However the two don’t have the strongest chemistry, it’s more successful in portraying the healthier marriage, but in the other they simply don’t feel as if there’s any connection there at all. Although given the plot and progression of the story, it’s a minimal issue.

The Alternate is well shot, with a visual quality that’s well above your average indie sci-fi feature. It’s an entertaining story, but the hesitance to embrace its dark side does create a conflict in tone as the plot intensifies which holds back its full potential. Looking at the film’s different pieces, especially through the lens of it being a debut feature for Alrik Bursell, there’s a sincere amount of talent at work here, there may be room for improvement yes but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a great debut.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

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