Nevil Dwek’s feature debut, “Undermind” — winner of best feature at both the Dances With Films and the Stony Brook Film Festival — is a smart, slickly made psychological thriller, with plot similarities to films like “Sliding Doors” and “Happenstance.” Evocatively shot by cinematographer Wolfgang Held, and with pro performances all around, pic is deserving of a cable release, if not select arthouse distribution.
Sam Trammell plays Derrick Hall, a second-generation corporate lawyer tired of trying to fill his father’s shoes. He hates his job, but doesn’t know what he wants. Between pressures from his domineering mother (Celia Weston) and his loving fiance (Susan May Pratt), he’s ready to implode.
Intriguingly, these introductory scenes with Derrick are intercut with other sequences that seem to have wandered in from another movie. Is that Derrick, looking tougher and more unkempt, hiring a hit man to kill his brother? But Derrick doesn’t have a brother …
About 20 minutes into the film, it becomes clear the guy hiring the hit man is Zane Waye, Derrick’s physical twin in a parallel universe. Zane is a heist man, frustrated musician, and all-around cad — the opposite of Derrick.
The two somehow have switched places, waking up disoriented in each other’s worlds. (Dwek doesn’t even attempt an explanation of the mechanics of the switch.) Neither seems well equipped to deal with the situation: Derrick is all frustration and indecision; Zane is action and impulse. Each is half of a balanced personality: The question is whether, between their halves, they can create two wholes.
“Undermind” is basically a feature-length “Twilight Zone” episode, but it never feels pointlessly protracted. Some of the resolution is predictable, but Trammell’s performance lends a degree of poignancy that makes the journey worthwhile. He gets able support from familiar players like Weston (“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”) and Pratt (“Center Stage”). Tech credits are polished.