Ansel Elgort has played a romantic lead in The Fault In Our Stars, curled his upper lip to perfection in Baby Driver and made a name for himself with big budget spectacle in the Divergent franchise. In Bill Oliver’s impressive debut science fiction feature the budget may have shrunk, but the ideas are compelling, and Elgort’s dual performance is massively emotionally engaging. The success of the film hinges on his performance, as he plays two men who are identical to one another, and entirely pulls it off. Suki Waterhouse sadly gets lumped with a manic pixie dream girl role but it’s the only bum note in the film.
Dealing with similar themes to Duncan Jones’ Moon, Oliver subverts the typical ‘man alone in space’ film by setting Duplicate in a bustling New York City and toying with ambitious notions about consciousness, mental health and neuroscience. His take on modern work-life balance and family responsibilities are hugely relatable. And the way the film approaches the unpredictability of both body and mind, especially when they don’t always function as we would like, is deeply moving.
Jonathan wakes every morning, goes for a run, is never late for his job as a draftsman at an architectural firm and keeps a healthy diet. He finds it hard to make friends but he’s coping. Every evening before turning in, he records a video for a man named John who looks exactly like him – though is far more relaxed and outgoing in his lifestyle. John in turn records a video and the two share a nurturing and communicative relationship until eventually one of them messes up and breaks up their happy existence.
Without wanting to reveal too much, Oliver along with his co-writers, Gregory Davis and Peter Nickowitz turn the pressures of life and love into something quite profound. It’s powerful, beguiling and surprising in its depiction of equilibrium and how people spend their days chasing time, attempting to feel fulfilled and keeping up with personal goals and objectives. It’s a thinker that’s both comforting and confronting.