The Reconstruction of William Zero Poster

The Reconstruction of William Zero (2014) Review

The Reconstruction of William Zero was directed by Dan Bush (Tomorrow’s Monsters, FightFuckPray), written by Bush and Conal Byrne (The Dark Red, current CEO of iHeartRadio), and stars Byrne, Amy Seimetz (The Last Manhunt, Upstream Color), Lake Roberts (Ghost of Old Highways, Finale), Melissa McBride (The Walking Dead, Mutant Species), Scott Poythress (Night Drive, I Trapped the Devil), and Tim Habeger (Shut-Eye, The Devil to Pay). It’s about a geneticist who clones himself after the death of his son dealing with the physical and interpersonal problems that have come with his work.

The Plot: Taking pages from Bergman and Stevenson, Bush and Byrne cook up their own take on plots driven by personality. Developments are frequent and largely interesting but grow less effective as the feature moves forward.

Waking from the coma he fell into after hitting a tree, William 2 (Byrne) finds himself being tended to by his twin, William 1 (also Byrne) who guides the former back to health while balancing his research with Baxter (Roberts) and Bronson (McBride) at NextCorp under Dr. Archer (Habeger). Untangling the contradictory tales being told, The Reconstruction of William Zero soon reveals cloning to be the true relationship between the Williams, and Bush balances William 2’s meetings with estranged wife Jules (Seimetz) and gradual understanding of his purpose, alongside William 1’s continued degradation.

The Reconstruction of William Zero 1

I can’t give everything away, but The Reconstruction of William Zero does go on to elaborate on the gaps in the characters’ memories via Lester (Poythress) which stems from a cyclical approach to the clones of William Zero – the original man. Soon, the film brings the titular character into the fold, in the script’s last effective shift. Once the script transitions from investigation to realization it loses narrative potency, putting Jules in danger at the hands of William 2 in order to create a more traditional conclusion to The Reconstruction of William Zero’s plot.

Said conclusion will likely be divisive, but it ties things together cleanly whereas other movies about the same or similar subjects struggle to make ends meet. Personally, I like it.

The Characters: Obviously, some of the characters are going to share traits and backstories, but the filmmakers do a great job at differentiating the clones enough to keep them separate. Some of the supporting roles are undercooked, but the primaries are sound.

William Zero’s occupations as a busy father, scientist, and husband aren’t balanced, but that’s the point here. He’s one of those genius types who are so inundated with things to do that he’s barely his own person, but the efficient illustration for the cause of this, and a tragic event that would damage and disassociate any man change what would be a flaw in other movies into a net positive for The Reconstruction of William Zero.

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1 and 2 are similar but occupy opposite ends of the extreme. The former is reckless, aware of his innate flaws that come from Zero’s actions and the same issues that will likely arise from the latter. He’s much dryer, more closed-off, and more aggressive than his newer counterpart. The latter is a curious clone, eager at first for answers and later to fill his role. His naivety and lack of emotional control suits the film well, and Byrne adds small gestures and behaviours to each of the characters to further show their state of being.

Jules used to be a bubbly person, even while dealing with the same domestic life that her husband shared. She brought Zero out of his shell, as shown in flashbacks/implanted memories, and played well off of him overall. Naturally, she changed with time, and while the movie doesn’t have the runtime to show each way, Seimetz does a great job with the emotive tendencies of the character. While she isn’t as distinguishable as any of the Williams, the overall characterizations are done so well that it doesn’t matter too much.

The Drama: Philosophical films rarely land with the level of dramatic and emotional weight they intend to convey. Leave it to an indie filmmaking team to execute existential conflicts and family ties better than most. The Reconstruction of William Zero doesn’t define its concepts, but it illustrates them well.

Starting with the death of a family member and leaving that point alone is a risky move, but Bush and Byrne make it feel real by elaborating on the devastation felt by Zero, who up and left after the tragedy. This moves onwards to William 2 and Jules, who both come to understand their feelings about the event and about each other, even though neither of them is who the other thinks they are. Emotionally, anyway. It’s a complicated process, as they talk about the same things through different lenses to reach a one-sided resolution that still affects the way it should.

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Where the writers hit their dramatic stride is in their filmic understanding of improvement as it pertains to humans (and human copies). Zero’s mishandled response to his trauma led him to create William 1, who intends to fill the professional gaps the now absent original left. Because 1 is indeed a clone, his job is clearer, but his methods are much more direct. His own work on cloning technology has served him well, and he’s dead set on taking it further, even at the cost of those around him. The desire to redo what Zero did and stick it to him for placing that responsibility is an engaging development.

Outward perception of the clones is the stumbling block The Reconstruction of William Zero faces, as the filmmakers were so intensely focused on the efforts of the Williams that the other parties in the picture are neglected. Many people like Baxter and Archer ask if “William” is okay, but aside from a NextCorp follow-up, the actions taken throughout the runtime seem as though they happened in a vacuum. As a personal story, the movie excels, but when taken anywhere outside this realm, the dramatic stakes shatter completely.

The Technics: With nearly two decades of entertainment work behind him, Bush and the production team did a terrific job of taking heady sci-fi and engaging visual flair down to its minimum necessities.

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Aesthetically, for a film on a budget, The Reconstruction of William Zero punches way, way above its weight. I’m not sure of the technique(s) used to present multiple Williams in the same shot, but whatever they were, there are no cracks within them. Even without that achievement, Jon Swindall’s (Your Worst Nightmare, Dead Silent) handheld cinematography easily retains richness, as the high contrast colours and moody lighting approach and sometimes surpass the levels expected of big budget sci-fi tentpoles. The editing by Darrin Navarro (Bug, Outer Banks) and the director himself, which splices in 16mm footage that works contextually and artistically, is also praise-worthy.

Length becomes an issue as the film goes on, though. As mentioned, the world around the movie is almost nonexistent, and expository scenes get redundant and untrusting even after most of the cards are on the table. More time spent exploring the way that Zero created his clones and the goals of NextCorp should’ve replaced some of those moments and added in a few more minutes in the process, as those facets are no less interesting than the drama.

While not a perfect example of indie sci-fi, The Reconstruction of William Zero is an excellent speculative and dramatic piece that, while less attentive to all of its aspects than it should’ve been, is a solid home-spun tale of an original idea.

The Reconstruction of William Zero is available on Digital Platforms including Tubi. And if you’re looking for more films like this one, FilmTagger can suggest a few titles.

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