TIFF Review: Uncertainty

Uncertainty has a brilliant set-up: After it is discovered that Kate (Lynn Collins) is pregnant, the young couple finds themselves uncertain about their future. With a magical flip of a coin, the story is split into two alternative realities, showing two vastly different directions their immediate future could take ala Sliding Doors. I am certain that the film never lives up to the magical promises of the plot synopsis, and was baffled at the lack of explanation of why both stories differed so greatly.

One of the stories takes the couple to a July 4th barbecue at Kate's family's house, where the discover a stray dog. Olivia Thirlby has an extended cameo as Kate's sister who plans to give up her college scholarship to peruse her acting dreams in Los Angeles. The other story is set-up like a DJ Caruso-style thriller. It begins when Kate's boyfriend Bobby (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) discovers a lost smart phone in the back of a cab. Rather than turn it in to the driver, he decides to call the last few numbers on the recent call list and leave messages regarding the missing phone. He eventually reaches someone claiming to be the owner of the phone, and arranges a meet up to hand it over. But when the guy arrives is shot and murdered, the couple are forced to go on the run. A blackmail plot is devised which could either make the couple $500,000 richer or dead. You can probably guess which of the two stories is more interesting.

The film is highly improvised, based on an extensive story treatment. The performances are natural, but sometimes feels free of substance. Instead we are watching reactions and conversations. Some people may enjoy that, and I'm guessing those people might enjoy the highly developed character drama of the barbecue story. Bottom line is the film is entertaining but highly uneven.

The one interesting thing about the unique structure is that both have the same exact backstory. This allows one story to reveal the answers to questions posed in the other story. For example, Kate's brother is brought up at the barbecue, but you don't find out what happened to him until it is revealed during conversation in the other reality.

/Film Rating: 6 out of 10