You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


"Uncertainty" reps an uncertain attempt indeed by writer-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel to return to their roots in quasi-experimental, formally informed cinema.

Bobby Thompson - Joseph Gordon-Levitt Kate Montero - Lynn Collins Sylvia Montero - Assumpta Serna Sophie Montero - Olivia Thirlby

“Uncertainty” reps an uncertain attempt indeed by writer-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel to return to their roots in quasi-experimental, formally informed cinema. A potentially intriguing idea on paper — a young couple flips a coin to decide which of two ways they’ll spend the day, and the film portrays both options — proves half formulaic and half simply unimaginative onscreen. A bright visual package notwithstanding, this has little chance with the public.

McGehee and Siegel made their mark in 1994 with the provocative “Suture,” which dealt in its own way with intriguing dualities. After a step forward with “The Deep End” and a step backward with “Bee Season,” the team tries something different here that deliberately marginalizes itself commercially without justifying itself artistically.

The most striking moments are the initial brilliant, pristine images of the Brooklyn Bridge and environs, where lovers Bobby (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Kate (Lynn Collins) pause to consider their future, in both the immediate and long-term senses. Kate is pregnant and admits, “I’m afraid of destiny,” so Bobby puts their fate at the mercy of a coin toss, triggering the film’s jump into two alternate, parallel realities.

In one scenario, the couple goes as planned to Kate’s parents’ home in Brooklyn, where assorted relatives and friends assemble for a Fourth of July cookout and fireworks. While the pregnancy causes a bit of standard drama, this entire episode is uncompelling to the point of terminal dullness, with no significant character insights or artistic grace notes to lift the torpor.

Layered into this strand is a Manhattan adventure in which, having found a stray cell phone in a taxi and contacted its owner, Bobby and Kate are chased all over Chinatown by a rabid gunman. Interlude plays like an old-fashioned TV show or an indifferently directed suspense feature, because it’s all so arbitrary, with nothing on the line.

Rather than creating an interesting opposition of events, the double-barreled format merely points up the artificiality of every aspect of the venture. If you want to explore the vagaries of chance and multiple options, best to do it as comedy; Buster Keaton and Preston Sturges, just to name two, had field days playing with similar ideas.

Under the circumstances, there is little that Gordon-Levitt and Collins, agreeable as they are, can do to invigorate the picture, which in all respects is exemplary from a technical point of view.


Production: A KinoCorp picture. (International sales: Cinetic Media, New York.) Produced, directed, written by Scott McGehee, David Siegel.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Rain Li; editor, Paul Zucker; music, Peter Nashel; production designer, Debbie De Villa; art director, Lauren Fitzsimmons; costume designer, Stacey Battat; sound, Bryan Dembiniski; sound designer, Warren Shaw; re-recording mixers, Michael Barry, Warren Shaw; line producer, Becky Glupczynski; assistant director, Curtis A. Smith Jr.; casting, Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Crowley, Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Visions), Sept. 9, 2008. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Bobby Thompson - Joseph Gordon-Levitt Kate Montero - Lynn Collins Sylvia Montero - Assumpta Serna Sophie Montero - Olivia Thirlby

More Film

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners

    Berlin Film Festival 2019: Nadav Lapid's 'Synonyms' Wins Golden Bear

    Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” about a young Israeli man in Paris who has turned his back on his native country, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale on Saturday. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to François Ozon’s French drama “By the Grace of God,” a fact-based account of the Catholic Church [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel,' 'Lego Movie 2' to Lead President's Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” is holding a slim lead ahead of “Lego Movie 2’s” second frame with an estimated four-day take of $29.1 million from 3,790 North American locations. “Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” meanwhile, is heading for about $25 million for a domestic tally of around $66 million. The two films lead the pack [...]

  • Marianne Rendon, Matt Smith, Ondi Timoner

    Robert Mapplethorpe Biopic Team Talks 'Fast and Furious' Filming

    Thursday night’s New York premiere of the Matt Smith-led biopic “Mapplethorpe” took place at Cinépolis Chelsea, just steps from the Chelsea Hotel where the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe once lived — but director Ondi Timoner had no sense of that legacy when she first encountered him in a very different context. “When I was ten [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of Hitler, [...]

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content