Entangled (2019)

Entangled sets out its stall early, with a voiceover from Loretta (Paloma Kwiatkowski) about the multiverse which we have all heard about from sci-fi and comic books, and the likelihood that if someone in one universe is attempting to make contact with another, someone else in a parallel, near-identical universe will inevitably be trying to do the same. Science prodigy Loretta, is conducting just such an experiment with her boyfriend Danny (Robert Naylor), and their friends Amy (Sandra Mae Frank) and Gerry (Munro Chambers) when an unexpected result leads them out on a rushed field trip to the nearby lake, and to a road collision in which Loretta is killed.

Five months later, Danny, Amy and Gerry are made to realise that, at least in the parallel universe that they had briefly contacted, the experiment never stopped, yielding a series of conundrums and a space-time disruption in need of violent correction – no matter whether that correction is executed by one (or all) of them, or by the mysterious machinations of a self-ordering universe (or indeed of several).

The title Entangled refers both to the students’ experiments in quantum entanglement, and to the word which all four of them have inked into their forearms in one universe, but not in another, as one of several markers by which these eight irrationally twinned individuals, now sharing the same space, can easily be told apart (just so long as they are wearing short sleeves). Literally entangled into and around that word on their tattoo is the shape of a lemniscate, indicating not just the infinite number of worlds in the multiverse, but also, more obliquely, the infinite number of minor variants on the story that we are watching, as everything these characters do echoes and reechoes, sending ripples across parallel worlds in an endlessly looping pattern. No wonder, then, that the characters are so frequently shown next to reflective surfaces, including a recurring shot of Loretta in a multi-mirrored space that shows her image replicated in infinite regress. All these distorted visual doublings represent a mise en abyme of a (narrative) world that, once set in motion, by implication becomes self-replicating – and indeed must, already and always, have been entangling and disentangling itself.

Directed by Gaurav Seth (Prisoner X, 2016), from a screenplay by Doug Taylor (a co-writer on Vincenzo Natali’s Splice, 2009), the science fiction of Entangled certainly brings a lot of challenging ideas from physics into play. It also finds ways to give dramatic expression to its ‘anomaly science’ by teasing out what it means to be different on a human scale – whether the status of the Loretta, dead in one universe while still alive in another, or the sociopathy which for one Gerry is a merely latent tendency, and for the other a diagnosed, dangerous disorder, or Amy’s deafness, which she has inherited from her mother Dierdre (Marlee Matlin), but which by a genetic fluke Amy’s double has skipped. The deaf Amy unswervingly embraces her condition as an essential part of her identity’s make-up, and as such has a loving relationship with her mother and with those around her, whereas her fully hearing double (whose voice is provided by Shauna Black) regards deafness as an anomaly, resents her mother’s deafness for the attention that it brings, and has grown up to be unhappy and difficult. One can discern in this set of comparisons and contrasts a nuanced discourse on the very notion of what constitutes ‘normal’.

All this is held together by genre material drawn from the doppelgänger thriller, as one character, who regards this parallel world as a “3D playground”, sets about eliminating all likenesses in order to realise the darkest of dreams. Indeed, Entangled is playing with the same box of ideas that recently produced James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence (2013), John V. Soto’s The Gateway (2018) and Isaac Ezban’s Parallel (2018). The film’s one problem – although this might be the sort of problem that provokes energetic thoughts and discussions rather than being a mere deus ex machina-style storytelling cheat – is that its final twist, though well forecast and brought crashing into the plot with a certain inevitability, does not, at least at first, appear to make any sense. This, however, is the film’s parting gift – for thinking though the paradoxical mechanics of Entangled (whose very title promises knotty convolutions) constitutes much of the post-viewing entertainment. 

© Anton Bitel