Directed by Bill Oliver.
Starring Ansel Elgort, Patricia Clarkson, Suki Waterhouse, Matt Bomer and Douglas Hodge.
Jonathan leaves the office everyday at noon. When he gets home, he goes to sleep. Every morning he wakes up and there is a breakfast prepared for him along with a video telling him about the second part of his day.
Duplicate (originally titled Jonathan in the U.S.) is a disappointing film. What sounds like an interesting and timely concept in our age of technological innovation – that we could create duplicate consciousnesses of ourselves, within ourselves, in order to explore more than one way of living – feels under-explored.
The film is slow-moving which, while perfectly acceptable at the film’s beginning when John and Jonathan’s (Ansel Elgort) personas and routines are being introduced, as well as their shared way of life, starts to feel boring and shallow quite quickly. The decision to show events only from the duplicate’s point of view doesn’t really work, either. At first it’s a neat idea, showing the more boisterous and ‘bro’ John only through the videos he’s recorded for Jonathan to keep him up to date with his side of their life. When Jonathan begins to question his honesty though (and it all revolves around a girl, obviously), John starts ‘disappearing’ and leaving no information for Jonathan when he’s conscious. This is where things could have really picked up, if John’s side of the story then came into play – but it doesn’t.
Suki Waterhouse doesn’t have much to do as John’s (and then Jonathan’s) girlfriend Elena, other than be a vessel for their big, shared secret and look sympathetic and understanding. Matt Bomer inexplicably pops up in a very small role as a P.I. that Jonathan hires to snoop on John (looking a bit kinky as far as the investigator is concerned). His profile suggested his role might expand, but it doesn’t.
Duplicate is clearly a showcase for Ansel Elgort, acting different versions of the same character. He does a good job too: cool in that contrived way people have for John, and much more uptight – and dare I say robotic? – as Jonathan.
Patricia Clarkson appears as the other pivotal role, Dr. Mina Nariman, who knows about (and invented?) the duplication of Jonathan/John. As ever, she’s good at being an intelligent if dubious person with murky morals who has embraced the power of human technology – it’s basically the same role she played in the Maze Runner films. Her motives are difficult to decipher too, as what she is to Jonathan/John is left open to interpretation – mother figure? Actual mother? Creator? Doctor? Actually human?
Duplicate never goes much beyond its beginning, despite the unsurprising development of a struggle between the two consciousnesses. Despite only focusing on this one example of a duplicate (could there be more?) and not exploring the potential impact of this technology on the world, the characters remain pretty empty themselves. It’s hard to feel empathy for them without much of a connection. This potentially promising storyline can’t help but feel somewhat squandered.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★