Review: Uncertainty DVD

STUDIO: IFC/MPI | DIRECTOR: Scott McGehee & David Seigel | CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lynn Collins, Assumpta Serna, Olvia Thirlby
RELEASE DATE: 4/20/2010 | PRICE: DVD $24.98
BONUSES: audition footage, scrip/scene comparison, TV spot, trailer
SPECS: NR | 105 min. | Drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Uncertainty takes a youngish New York couple, Bobby (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Kate (Lynn Collins), who are at the crossroads of their relationship, and with the a flip of a coin in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, sends them each running off in different directions: Kate towards Brooklyn, where she meets up with Bobby and they spend the day at her Argentine family’s home; and Bobby into a Manhattan taxi with Kate and an afternoon of high-speed pursuit and danger after they find the lost cell phone of a murderously corrupt city official. Or at least I think it’s a city official; like many of the details, feelings and motivations in the film — as well as the two alternate but parallel stories that unfold before us — it’s sort of uncertain.

Taking a film’s main characters and putting them through two different but possible “realities” is a gimmick that has been done before, see Julia and Julia and Sliding Doors, but rarely with the careful structure and overall finesse that the filmmaking team of Scott McGehee and David Seigel (Suture, The Deep End) bring to Uncertainty.

Content-wise, the two stories are a little problematic. The Brooklyn family drama is a bit wan, and the Manhattan adventure is completely implausible. But the skillful yet subtle juxtaposition of the two stories is wholly engaging. Like the flipping of the coin at the opening, life’s choices are frequently a simple decision between heads or tails, and the answer, firm though it may be, is still filled with doubt. And fate, coincidence and chance also play hand in whatever may happen.

Though the screenplay is plotted from beginning to end, the filmmakers wrote it without dialog, wanting to leave the script open to the process of the actors, which explains Uncertainty’s naturalistic, improvisatory feel.

Gordon-Levitt and Collins are both fine, and they get some able support given by the impressive Spanish actress Assumpta Serna (who doesn’t get enough work in the U.S.) as Kate’s strong-willed mother and independent film princess Olivia Thirlby as Kate’s show biz-aspiring sister.

Filmmakers McGehee and Seigel reportedly relocated to New York a few years back and we can only assume they love their new town, as Uncertainty is one of the best-looking New York-based indies we’ve seen in years. The subways, buses, bridges, New York Public Library, United Nations building and Chinatown have never looked so colorful and alive. Kudos to cinematographer Rain Li for her outstanding work.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.