History has certainly shown that storytelling is a circular concept, both simultaneously affecting society and (of course) inspired by the world around it. The Wachowskis’ underrated Cloud Atlas dealt heavily with the complex relationship between art and life as well as the influence that the former can have on subsequent generations, ultimately inspiring a movement that can change the shape of the future. While Zoom isn’t quite as ambitious as that sprawling 2012 film, it deals with some similarly intriguing concepts, albeit in a less impactful way.
Zoom – the first English-language feature (and second overall) from director Pedro Morelli (Entre Nós) – follows a trio of main characters played by Alison Pill (Milk), Gael García Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries) and Brazilian star Mariana Ximenes, all of whom play individuals faced with an intensely personal and professional crossroads. As it plays out, Zoom gradually unveils the connections between these at first disparate storylines, illustrating that its three leads aren’t as different as they may initially seem.
Zoom is one of those films that is best viewed without knowing too much about what to expect. So for the sake of preserving the experience for interested viewers, we’ll steer clear of too many specifics regarding the plot at hand. The film made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, and casual moviegoers should be warned: it very much has an indie sensibility to it, one that could very well alienate those hoping for something more mainstream in its narrative approach.
With a scattershot quirky tone, Zoom flits from one plotline to the next, weaving in and out from Pill’s introverted aspiring comic book artist to Bernal’s libidinous film director at a moment’s notice. Actually, both actors – veteran performers who have delivered consistently solid work in countless films and television series – turn in great performances here, channeling just the right off-balance edge to keep the onscreen shenanigans engaging throughout. Ximenes, unfortunately, carries the least compelling of the three storylines and the one that most bears the burden of communicating the film’s more contemplative themes.
At its heart, Zoom has a lot to say about the very human need for artistic expression and the opportunity to redefine how the world sees you, whether born of circumstance or some self-cultivated desire for change. It’s a film that tackles head-on a great number of worthwhile points about body image and deep-seated insecurities that have never been more relevant as they are in today’s aggressively self-focused society. Yet, though it deserves recognition for its heady thematic content, Zoom isn’t an out-and-out home run.
The madcap elements of its stories don’t entirely gel with its more dramatic ambitions, and when it comes to communicating the themes it is so clearly looking to comment on, the film lacks the finesse that would have helped it connect with viewers on a more visceral level. Still, Morelli’s creative visual style — typified by the rotoscoped animation employed in Bernal’s scenes – and the winning performances by Pill, Bernal and much of the supporting cast make Zoom a film that is still worth seeing as the bold cinematic experiment it is.
“Perfection is inhuman because humanity is imperfect,” a character says at one point, and considering that the film is just as flawed as its characters and storytelling, perhaps the mixed bag that viewers get is an intentional social commentary illustrating that very point. In any case, Zoom gives new dimension to the current shared universe craze, bringing together its various plotlines in a wholly original way, even if the end result doesn’t add up to as profound an experience as its thematic ground might have promised.
A hit-and-miss story is countered by a creative, though imperfect, vision and strong lead performances in Zoom.