Writer-director-editor Gregg Furuoka’s debut feature-length sci-fi Tethered is a beautiful self-contradiction in all the right ways. The film follows the rapidly unraveling life of Detective Samantha “Sam” Morris played by Caroline Harris (Happiest Season, 2020). Checking every box in the list of what makes a cerebral science fiction film, Tethered is simultaneously fearless in breaking the rules while blending the structure and surrealism of the narrative. It does so in ways that both emotionally immerse the audience, while also splitting that immersion with time jumps whenever the narrative so pleases.
Not Your Average Thriller
Furuoka’s film is the kind of anomaly that follows the likes of Shane Carruth’s Primer (2004),
Duncan Jones’s Moon (2009), and Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead’s Resolution (2011). In a similar vein, Tethered gives the audience a cast of characters with relatable backstories while at the same time frustrating them by withholding their emotional core. The narrative, divvied into three parts, gets progressively fractured to a point where it all melts into one smooth flow. It’s a respectful throwback to the storytelling trademarks of the late Satoshi Kon, whose films Paprika and Perfect Blue continue to be amongst the best in the business to have turned time into a malleable visual narrative device.
Time is a Factor
While Tethered may not always flow as seamlessly onscreen as Kon’s work, so much of it successfully leaves you grasping at straws trying to identify what’s real and what isn’t. As the film reaches its chaotic finale, though, invested viewers will realize that visually, the hints were always there, even if it’s hard to point out in what way. Furuoka’s excellent editing focuses on acclimatizing those who watch it to time jumps. In that moment, it gets almost frustrating to witness because it ditches any emotional pause needed prep for the hard jump-cuts between scenes. As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that those decisions were a kind of foundation building up to every other turn the story makes.
Stimulating the Senses
Underscoring the off-kilter edit is Maam’s (Where We Begin, 2020) phenomenal ambient electronic score, which has shades of inspiration from musical acts like Bon Iver and Moderat. The atmosphere his compositions add to the film, switching seamlessly between quiet contemplation and rising paranoia, feels almost like its own character. There’s also the pitch-perfect use of light, shadow, and color to accentuate emotion and hardcode some order within its frenzied timeline.
More to Love
There’s so much to love in Tethered, which is why the lack of overall impact within its final moments feels more disappointing than it really is. Furuoka bites off just a tad more than he can chew with the breathless pace by the film’s end when a subversion of that trademark would have done it a world of good. Fortunately, it doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of piecing together the mystery he builds up. Still, Harris and Joshua Kwak’s (Where We Begin, 2020) brilliant onscreen work, Maam’s eclectic music, and a smartly written narrative that hits more than it make up for it. Tethered is not for everybody, but if you dig what you see, you’re bound to stick around and have a good time.
Tethered is streaming from On Demand platforms and VOD now.
Rating 3.5 of 5
The post Review: ‘Tethered’ Offers a Sci-Fi Experience Not for the Faint of Heart appeared first on The Black Cape Magazine.