Chained for Life (2018) [Fantasia 2018]

While on a shoot with a German director, actress Mabel tries to better her craft and herself while also attempting to connect with her co-star, a disfigured man who has a very different outlook on life and acting.

Writer/director Aaron Schimberg creates here an odd exploration of the human condition, of how beauty impacts lives, and of how everyone has a need to connect with others. His way of exploring this is a bit meta by having his characters work on a film within his film, leading to the viewer needing to really pay attention to not miss anything or get los as almost each and every character is technically two. That being said, the writing and direction are strong enough to support this and still have a film that makes sense in the end.

Playing the lead of Mabel is actress Jess Weixler who gives a thoughtful and careful performance. Her emotions translate to the screen in a calculated, yet natural manner. Giving the most interesting performance is Adam Pearson as Rosenthal, his performance is an anchor for the film even though he is secondary to Weixler, his presence and performance are the most impactful of the two. This does not diminish Weixler’s performance, but Pearson is the one that grabs the viewer and truly pulls them in. He does great work with the hindrances thrown at him and really sells the story. His emotional impact is felt by many characters and the viewer throughout the film. Rounding out the main cast is Stephen Plunkett as Max, a character that comes off a bit grating at times but it’s perfect for the part and Plunkett does well with it.

An important element for Chained for Life to be effective is the special effects by Chelsea Paige and Bethany Serpico. Their work here looks great and fits with the film’s themes and subjects, adding to the realism of it all and helping the emotional impact of the character. The effects for this film are not made to shock or gross out but simply to add another layer to the cast’s performances and to how it all connects with the viewer.

Chained for Life is an exploration of a multitude of themes including beauty and its impact on the person’s life as well as how everyone craves attention, interaction, and love on different levels. These and the connection between the characters are the main attractions here making this a character driven film that may feel a bit slow but has a decent pay-off for those it will touch and work for in the end.

Fantasia 2018 runs from July 12th to August 2nd, 2018.