If life is really this bad...
Having just finished Startup.com, it seems appropriate to chip away at my backlog of Sundance reviews with deadend.com
The ".com" here is strictly a publicity strategy, as the filmmakers happen to own the Internet domain - I don't believe I saw any network-capable device in the whole movie. They've built a bit of an online community there, not quite in the same spirit as the Blair Witch Project, but with at least the same intent of increasing awareness of their project.
The movie is inspired by some Canadian teens who made a suicide pact, to follow a cross-country road trip. The filmmakers researched their lives, but were unable to gather enough material to create the story, so went off the basic premise instead. They wrote a script, but ended up ditching it when their actors - including one they picked up off the streets - proved to be excellent at improvisating their scenes, and so they travelled together, actors and filmmakers, from city to city, letting their actors find whatever trouble they could.
Scene after scene, we see interesting and complex interactions, but there is no cohesion, nothing to latch onto in terms of a narrative voice. Perhaps it's the premise itself getting in the way - people on the way to their end do not necessarily have a strong or coherent way to deal with the challenge of their lives already. But more than that, abandoning the script left the job of providing a story arc - even a rudimentary one - which nobody seems to have picked up, leaving us a jumble of scenes that could be assembled on almost any order without detriment to the film.
It appears this project is trying to create an awareness of what the lives of troubled young people are like, and that persistent disconnectedness which can affect people so deeply. A worthy goal, and to a degree, I'd say they've been successful. It's unfortunate though, that it doesn't make a more compelling feature.
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