We’re less than ten minutes into Benjamin Ross Hayden’s Parallel Minds. And it shows us its protagonist Margo (Tommie-Amber Pirie) having a nightmare. Audiences know from watching enough of these sci-fi thrillers that a bad dream leads to something worse. That worse thing is her boss Elise (Michelle Thrush) becoming a murder victim.
A scientist working on a memory bank, Margo decides to investigate Elise’s murder. But that work is more within Thomas’ (Greg Byrk) wheelhouse. Part of his method involves drinking the old milk in Elise’s fridge. So basically Margo’s the more useful person in the duo, figuring out things like Elise’s accounts’ passwords.
One of the good things in this movie is its mix of high and analog technologies. Those aesthetics enhance the characters here, all of them having different ways of behaving. And at least the female characters are great. Those obvious include Margo and Elise, Indigenous characters who are vulnerable yet strong.
The tech-y stuff makes for good aesthetics here. But where it falls apart is the startup world that’s supposedly behind it. Thomas eventually gets to try the memory bank technology that Margo was working on. This is great, but all it does is make him brood over some melodramatic back story.
Thomas eventually reveals that backstory to Margo, and what ensues is what bugs me about movies like this. Thomas, then, has a good cry about why the force put him on probation. Fiction seems to belabor those traumas. The less tears we see surprisingly would have given the scene more weight.
There’s also melodrama on Margo’s side, who basically yells at her other boss about the program they built. The dialogue here is bizarre, using words like “lunacy” or “this is your creation”. The vernacular would have served better here. That, or making those words natural is not the actors’ strong suits.
References to Margo’s Indigenous heritage are scant here. Sci-fi is always interesting when there’s cultural representations. But all of that leads to something problematic where some of the Indigenous characters have magical powers. This is a case where even POC writers fall into using the tropes that their white counterparts rely on.
That trope is equally present in Thomas’ weaker story line. He discovers Elise’s murderer through what looks like a futuristic version of an ayahuasca trip. And that trip also exists so that he could exorcise his demons along the way. Oh, and the murderer is someone who looked suspicious from the beginning.