The indie flick Jim pinballs between two unlikely, intertwined storylines: a depressed man in the present contemplates suicide, and a clone child gains sentience in a far-off dystopian future. While this dual plot is promising, it ultimately doesn't coalesce.
This review contains some spoilers.
This isn't to say that director/writer Jeremy Morris-Burke's Jim isn't intriguing — the film's early moments are some savvy high concept science fiction. Jim (Dan Illian) is an unemployed widower whose home is in foreclosure. He's saddled with his deceased wife's medical bills, burdened with an outmoded resume, and contemplating suicide. His life is joyless, and his life is further complicated by visions of a strange boy who haunts his dreams.
This child is Clone 3774 (Abigail Savage), a worker clone child from an apocalyptic Earth. The clones toil away for Niskaa (Michael Strelow), a genetically modified overlord who is attempting to rebuild civilization after "pure" humans abandon Earth for Mars. 3774 is an anomaly — he's sentient and curious, something worker clones are bred not to be. His curiosity leads him away from his work site. In the ruin he encounters Nicodemus (Atticus Cain), a nomadic modified human, who tries to quell 3774's wanderlust. 3774's search for cognition could alert Nisska, whose isolation had made him unstable.
At first, the oscillation between Jim's suburban nightmare and 3774's broken society is jarring. It's enticing to see how Jim's misery syncs up with 377's wasteland. At these points, it evokes 12 Monkeys — the audience is left guessing what links these two worlds. Unfortunately, the narrative loses steam when it flashes back to Jim's happier days with his wife. These scenes are supposed to show the audience how much Jim's wife meant to him, but instead they come across as schmaltzy asides. These redundant scenes dragged down the film, as Jim's relationship with his wife could've easily (and more poignantly) been achieved through inference.
Furthermore, the film cobbles the present and future plots together in a incredibly hamfisted way. We know that genetic engineering is part of Jim's destiny (an ad from the fictional gene splicing Lorigen retail firm opens the film), but its debut at the film's end is too easy. Fanciful technology is de rigueur in science fiction, but Jim introduces this tech as an eleventh hour twist. The film conditions us to believe that Jim's world is exactly like ours, but the introduction of the heretofore unseen Lorigen gene splicers ties things up too neatly.
I applaud Jim for its intriguing concept and the design of its blasted, industrialized dystopia, but the film falters when it tries to link its future and present narratives. Jim admirably delivers a dystopia on a limited budget, but it becomes too muddled in its final act.
Jim is playing now in select cities. You can find more info at its site.