It takes a great deal to truly break ground within cinema’s most trope-filled and seemingly cliche-ridden genres. Take the world of romantic cinema for example. Be it your run of the mill romantic comedy or the every day melodrama, narratives here often follow telegraphed arcs and feature some less than experimental filmmaking.
And yet, every once in a blue moon a film comes across the screen that may not be a ground breaking bit of genre cinema, but has enough heart, soul and playfulness with the form and genre that it becomes something greater. That’s where a film like the third feature from director Darren Paul Fisher, a picture entitled Frequencies, comes in.
Also written by Fisher, this fresh, oddly chilly romantic drama/comedy takes a decidedly different approach to the world of film romances than most anything we’ve ever seen before or likely will going forward. The picture introduces us to a boy who meets a girl just like in any and every other romantic piece of fiction you’ve ever seen. However, this is not any normal boy, nor is this any normal girl or, for that matter, this a normal picture. A sci-fi picture at heart, the film is ostensibly a frigid, yet bewilderingly charming meditation on the idea of what makes human attraction tick. We meet Zak, a young boy, who is smitten with a gorgeous young woman named Marie. However, with their “frequencies” (ostensibly the extent to which fate will give them what they want, consider it manifested, measurable luck) at the opposite ends of the spectrum, they are considered by society to simply not be meant for one another. But what if that was just all bollocks? This decades-spanning sci-fi romance has been billed as a blend of Neil Gaiman-esque sci-fi with the dry wit of the best British comedy and is one of the most entrancing romantic pictures in quite some time.
The script here is the film’s biggest star. Written by Fisher, the film is a breath of fresh air in the world of romance cinema. At its core a dry sci-fi comedy, the film doesn’t feel quite like any other romance picture you’ll ever see. Beautifully dense in both themes and dialogue, the film swings for the proverbial fences in many instances, and more often than not they knock it out of the park. Be it the interchanges between our two leads (there is one near the end, when some secrets have been revealed, that fits this bill) or the opening “flirting” stages of the central relationship, the film feels shockingly real and relatable despite its icy cold sci-fi exterior. Not afraid to get its hands messy structurally, the film is twisty and the web woven here is both smart and ever playful. Ostensibly a tale of a man trying to prove that love is something more than science, the film’s main thrust is that humans emit a certain “frequency” which denotes everything about us. The higher the frequency, the smarter, luckier, etc the person in question is. However, it also means the higher one’s frequency is, the lower their emotional connection to themselves truly is. A beautiful look at the true power of love, Frequencies is a resonant tale of love told in three definitive segments, the first two being the same story but seen through each of our two leads eyes. The third, their life together, is where much of the thematic resonance comes from, but Fisher’s ability to play with tone and mood as seen in the different points of view in the first two segments, and use that structure to push the narrative forward while covering the same ground twice, is really something to be cheered.
It also helps that the performances here are uniformly solid. The picture opens up with Zak and Marie as teens, played wonderfully by Dylan Llewellyn and Georgina Minter-Brown, both of whom get their characters perfectly. Llewellyn plays the bumbling, unlucky Zak with so much heart and life that you can’t help but fall for him in an instant, and Minter-Brown nails the robotic yet brazenly gifted Marie with every bit of icy cold glacialness that makes the character so refreshing. This continues in their older versions played by Daniel Fraser and Eleanor Wyld, but their chemistry together shines through beautifully here. It’s a cold but deeply emotional picture that really thrives on the connection these two actors make, and the inherent connection the audience has thanks to seeing their relationship blossom from both points of view.
Overall, Fisher’s lavishly and crisply shot disertation on the power of love is both narratively inventive and thematically entrancing, and thanks to a director with enough trust in his own voice to craft a film that is deft at blending tones like none other, and a collection of actors able to truly elevate the drama despite a dry script, this is a small film that needs to be seen. A perfect VOD pick for this hot summer weekend, Frequencies is a small, but smart and enjoyable take on one of cinema’s most tired genres.