Imagine waking up from a coma and having to relearn everything including simple tasks like walking and the ability to speak. Memories are suddenly erased as who you are, who you were, and everyone that you've met over the course of your entire life up until this point would be gone like a computer hard drive being wiped clean. That's what Noah Greene (Josh Danziger) is going through. A fire changing his life is all he has to fall back on. His therapist and his brother are the few things Noah still has in his life, but Noah figures out that they've been purposely keeping things hidden from his past. Diagnosed with an induced delusional disorder and only a picture of a girl he may or may not know as inspiration, Noah sets out to discover the truth about this past of his that everyone is so eager to keep hidden.
Psychological thrillers are very dear to me as are any films that try to turn your brain upside down during the course of its duration. While Apart is certainly no psychological thriller, the constant jumping back and forth between reality and delusions does get a bit disorienting. Apart is visually fairly appealing. Its sense of perspective, camera work, and use of both color and filters makes everything not only easy on the eyes but discernibly memorable. The absence of color and the use of warm colors such as yellow or orange really make particular scenes stand out both in the way the scenes were filmed and the way they coincide with the story. Lighting is also something to pay attention to. Things always seem to get brighter during delusions while something like the dance Noah and Emily (Olesya Rulin) share barely uses any light at all.
The delusions are what catered to my taste the most. While it does seem a bit difficult at first to identify what's taking place in the present, the past, and what's a delusion, it becomes easier as the film progresses. Snow, blood, and extremely bright lights are prominently featured in delusions, warm colors usually identify the past, and the absence of colors usually identifies the present. The way everything unravels is a bit reminiscent of Memento (without things being shown to you in reverse). To be honest though, Apart could remind you of any film featuring memory loss from Jackie Chan's Who Am I? to The Butterfly Effect and everything in between.
Apart progresses at a steady pace that keeps your interest, but there are a few things that don't really sit well with you. It mostly involves the ending, but both Noah and Emily make some pretty lame decisions that seem to battle common sense while the ending itself is pretty open ended. While some may see it as a positive thing where it could mean this or that or the other thing, others will be disappointed that Apart doesn't wrap everything up for you in a nice little package. I was left with a lot of questions. Then something dawned on me after it ran around in my brain for awhile, but questions and definitive answers are somewhat left up in the air.
Apart has a really fascinating concept that is even more intriguing since it's based on this rare condition that actually exists. It's one of the most awkward love stories ever told as delusions and memory loss stand in the way of this high school romance that never fully had the chance to blossom. It's beautifully filmed and parallels to the likes of American Beauty and Memento should hold your interest, but Apart's biggest flaw is that it's never fully capable of capitalizing on its extremely original premise. However, it is still a worthy watch thanks to its strong acting and superb delusion sequences that confuse you in the best of ways.
Apart (Aaron Rottinghaus, 2011)
Sitting not terribly far beneath the surface of Apart is the best young adult movie you've ever seen. There are times—more than a few of them—that movie almost managed to come bubbling to the surface. Rottinghaus, normally an assistant editor (he has recently had a steady gig on the hit TV show Big Love), went very, very ambitious with his directorial debut. He almost succeeded. The story, which he co-wrote with male lead Josh Danziger, could have probably used another rewrite or two to help knock some of the less coherent bits into line; that would have made this into something that would have had a very, very good chance of landing pretty high up on my thousand-best list. Yes, the movie under the surface here is that good. Unfortunately, it has a nasty habit of shooting itself in the foot. That doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it—in fact, I think you probably should, and sooner rather than later—but you may well end up as frustrated as I was at getting the movie we got given how often you can see the movie we should have had.
Noah (Danziger, whose only other big-screen appearance to date came in 2006's The Lonely Ones) has been Away, in the sense that one is Away in movies, for some time. He has recently returned to his childhood hometown, of which he has no memory whatever. High school is just as much fun as it is anywhere, else, but soon he encounters Emily (High School Musical's Olesya Rulin), and suddenly he has a reason to go to high school. She, on the other hand, seems to want nothing to do with him, and Noah assumes it's just a case of unrequited infatuation. Until, that is, Emily lets slip during an emotional outburst that she knew Noah Before, in the sense that one has Before in movies. Suddenly, Noah has a link to his mysterious past, and he sets about trying to unlock a mystery he had given up on ever understanding.
A lot of good ideas here, but the script stumbles in a number of places. It occurred to me more than once while I was watching that the co-writers should have had a solid, underrated YA author—Mara Purnhagen or Pete Hautman or someone comparable—go over the script before they finalized it to check plot and pacing. Some of the more questionable scenes could have been streamlined, a few unanswered questions would have been wrapped up, etc. What's here will likely be more appealing to those who can recognize and appreciate the potential in a script, but what's here is not bad at all. ** ½