Some people would love a second chance at life, but then again they would just mess it up all over again!
The film opens with Adam, a professor of politics in Toronto. Struggling with his very existence, Adam seems unfulfilled by the life he is living, stuck in his routine that he desperately wants to escape but cannot bring himself to part with. His students, colleagues and limited friends seem to make him uneasy; his live-in girlfriend seems to be a cause of ennui rather than joy. We follow Adam to an underground sex club where, even there, Adam seems ill at ease; we also see the first instance of recurring themes throughout the story.
Soon Adam is given the chance to break this cycle of monotony when he watches a rented DVD on the recommendation of a colleague due to one of the characters in this fictional world looking exactly like Adam. After watching and seeing for himself the alarming similarity between himself and the on-screen character, Adam becomes obsessed with reaching out to this actor; uncovering his identity, as Anthony and eventually where he lives. Arranging to meet Adam and Anthony are startled by their likeness and quickly decide the meeting was a bad idea, before realizing what this could mean for them.
As the plot develops it seems that Anthony has less than honorable intentions and is living more than a double life. Anthony’s heavily pregnant wife, however, seems happy with the switch, which should give audiences an inside to the type of personality that Anthony is. Whereas one partner is happy with the switch, Adam’s live-in girlfriend, Claire notices that something is wrong immediately and is furious and confused. Despite being able to switch lives, Adam still seems unsatisfied as he struggles to establish just what identity means to him and the yearning to be something or someone he is not. As the film races to its finale and events that become irrevocable, Adam is left emotionally where he started; unable to recover the life he left and realizing the life he inhabits is not how he expected it to be.
Jake Gyllenhall (Brokeback Mountain, End of Watch) Stars as both Adam and Anthony, our main characters, and his performance exudes dread and foreboding and is central to the feeling of this piece. Both characters yearning to escape their lives which creates the atmosphere around this film. As the story develops the viewer is left wondering if it really was their own lives they were trying to escape or something different altogether.
The themes throughout speak to longing and desire, from the carnal attraction of the protagonists toward to parters of each other to the desire to sample each other’s lives and escape the monotony of their own lives. Themes of escape and conflict run throughout the film and the viewer experiences the characters keeping this barely at arms reach as the film reaches its conclusion. Both main characters struggling to understand their own identity and who they really are. With both Adam and Anthony being so similar in so many different ways it becomes hard to differentiate between the two lives and we are left wondering are the two separate characters indeed separate at all? The direction by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Blade Runner 2049) steers a complicated story through its twists and turns while managing to keep the feeling of dread throughout, Villeneuve has definitely developed a style in his directing career and fans of his work will be equally captivated by this piece.
By the end, viewers are left wondering what was real and just how separate the two characters really were as their lives seem intertwined below the surface, with similar themes dominating both Adam and Anthony’s lives. This film also leaves the viewer wondering how they interpret their own lives, both the characters seem to have what many people want with successful jobs, financial stability, homes, and loving partners; however, they are not happy with what they have; we are left wondering if we ourselves are Adam and Anthony.